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Engaging with local and international communities

[Queen's Cares Alternative Reading Week]

The Queen’s Cares Alternative Reading week program has expanded to provide students with opportunities to engage with communities locally and globally.

Over Reading Week in February more than 40 undergraduate Queen’s students from a range of faculties and disciplines worked in seven teams in Kingston, and, for the first time, in New Orleans and Ecuador. The students completed projects that supported community initiatives in partnership with a variety of organizations, including Camp Restore and ArcGNO in New Orleans, Fundación Brethren y Unida and Bee Farm Shunku in Ecuador, and Joe’s MILL and Art the Science in Kingston.

“We are thrilled to have built so many great connections with organizations this year so that our students could learn from a variety of international and local community partners and work collaboratively in supporting community initiatives,” says Kevin Collins, Coordinator, Community Engaged Learning in the Division of Student Affairs. “Our new international placements offered a unique opportunity for participants to create networks overseas, enrich their academics through experiential learning, cultivate intercultural awareness and understanding, and explore ethical global engagement and positionality.”

Sari Ohsada (Artsci’19) traveled to Ecuador to work with Operation Groundswell, an organization that partners with a number of community groups to offer experiential learning opportunities focused on food security and indigenous farming practices.

“While our time abroad was relatively brief, the overall experience deepened our understanding about the global food sovereignty movement and the importance of supporting alternative, grassroots initiatives,” she says. “Also, gaining insight about fair trade learning through our host organization, Operation Groundswell, was a meaningful experience which enabled us to critically reflect on our own positionality and privilege, and gain a sense of humility on our engagement abroad.”

For Connor Black, a fourth-year Life Sciences student, working with the Habitat for Humanity program in New Orleans was a valuable learning experience and a chance for personal reflection.

“The main focus of the Queen’s Cares experience was to learn about the organizations and the people in the community who were working together to get New Orleans, especially the Lower Ninth Ward, back on track after Hurricane Katrina,” Black says. “While we were there, we had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in local culture, work alongside some amazing individuals, but also reflect on the work we were doing and talk about any misconceptions we may have had prior to the trip.”

The international opportunities were the result of a partnership with Western University and were in part supported by the Career Ready Fund from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Pre-departure training was provided to all participants in collaboration with the Department of Global Development Studies, Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre, Queen’s Environmental Health and Safety, Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) and the Experiential Learning Hub in Career Services.

In Kingston, projects included collaborating with the Kingston Frontenac Public Library to draft a marketing campaign to attract millennials, and partnering with KEYS Job Centre to promote their BAG project. Students also worked on detailed planning for Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth’s first two greenhouse projects and assisted with after-school programming and the planning for Pink Shirt Day at the local Boys and Girls Club.

On March 13, the Division of Student Affairs is hosting a Queen’s Cares Showcase to highlight the experiences of the student participants. The event will take place from 6-7:30 pm in the Agnes Etherington Art Centre with doors opening at 5:30 pm. It will include jazz music, refreshments and interactive displays. All are welcome to attend and learn more about the program and how to get involved in community engaged learning opportunities.

For more information about Queen’s Cares, visit the Student Experience Office website.