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An exercise in caring

[Queen's Cares Reading Week]
Students help pack boxes of food at Good Food Box during last year's Queen’s Cares Reading Week. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

The Queen’s Cares Reading Week community service learning initiative went so well as a pilot in 2016 that organizers decided to double its size this year.

Starting Tuesday, Feb. 21, 24 Queen’s students will be spending their winter break volunteering at Partners in Mission Food Bank, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Salvation Army Thrift Store. In addition to engaging in community service, participants will be examining issues related to poverty in Kingston through workshops and presentations, and critical reflection exercises.

The participating students are from across Canada and several countries around the world, and are enrolled in a range of programs in arts and science, engineering and commerce. For the pilot, the program was offered to first-year students only, but this year it was offered to all undergraduate students.

“It’s nice to see the growth in interest in the program, and the variety of backgrounds of the participants,” says Nicole Crozier, Coordinator, New Student Transition, Student Experience Office Division of Student Affairs. “Community service learning is about bridging the gap between academic learning, and real world application. We want the students to learn about the issues involved in poverty, but to also experience them first-hand. It’s impactful when you are seeing what is happening, seeing how it is working, and engaging with the people who are affected by the issues. This first-hand experience is often important in becoming an engaged citizen, locally and globally.”

As a Queen’s Cares participant last year, arts and science student Tanya Iakobson says the program gave her new perspective and insight. This year she is back as a student facilitator.

“This program has been a fundamental part of my university program, and that’s why I chose to become a facilitator,” she says. “This program changed my perspectives, helped me grow as an individual, and hopefully I was able to make even a small impact within the community. I hope that as a facilitator I can do that again this year.” 

Also returning to the program as a facilitator is second-year arts and science student Mikela Page. Before taking part last year, she knew little about the surrounding community.  

“It is important for me to be involved in the community I live in and to be aware of local issues,” she says. “A program like this is important because it uses experiential learning, which combines an academic context with community service learning. This allows students to apply what they are learning, not only from the program but from their classes too, in a real world context.”

Visit the Queen’s Cares Reading Week website for more information.