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ActNOW aims to continue the spirit of the Dalai Lama's message.
Katy Anderson/the Gauntlet

Lama inspires day of action

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Two-hundred students participated in actNOW, a day of action in the Calgary community which was meant to bridge together the Dalai Lama's message of compassion with community engagement.

The students were divided into 17 teams and participated in various volunteer projects throughout the city -- everything from helping Habitat for Humanity build a house to working at a community garden at Fort Calgary.

Melanie Walker, special projects assistant for the engageNOW conference was touched by the students' volunteer work.

"It brought tears to my eyes."

Walker said a goal of actNOW was for students to volunteer in the community and think about how to connect community engagement with their academic work.

"[The students] touched me in terms of the work that they did and how hard they worked and the thought process from beginning to end," she said.

Sociology major Alycia Lauzon was the student leader at the Fort Calgary community garden where students spent the day harvesting vegetables to be used at non-profit agencies.

Lauzon said she enjoyed the day, but found it interesting to consider how the work would have been completed, had her team not been there.

"It was crazy. There was six of us and we worked all day. Just to think of how much time it would have taken the people that work there to do all the work we did . . . it was kind of amazing."

Lauzon saw the Dalai Lama speak twice and said she enjoyed his message and feels it is important that students get involved in volunteering.

"I think it's important to give back," said Lauzon. "You can learn a lot from volunteering. I think often the person volunteering gets more out of it than the person who's being volunteered for."

Walker said she hopes students who heard the Dalai Lama in person, or online, can take values he spoke about such as compassion and self-confidence, connect these values with their academic learning and volunteering, and ultimately realize why it is important to give back to their community.

Walker admitted it may be hard for students to find time to volunteer, but said a lot can be taken away from volunteering.

She even knows students who volunteer before and after-exams because it can be such a great stress-reliever.

"It's so hard to find time to sleep, let alone to volunteer," she said, noting volunteering prepares students for life after school.

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