Students Lend a Hand During 'Alternative' Reading Week

February 12, 2009 - News Release

Most students take time during Reading Week to recharge and regroup for the final half of the semester, but more than 80 U of G students and staff plan to use the week to make positive change happen in communities across North America.

Teams of volunteers will fan out Feb. 15 to 21 to Guelph high schools, a First Nations community on Ontario's Bruce Peninsula, Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and Mississippi. They'll be participating in Project Serve Canada, an alternative Reading Week program co-ordinated by the Citizenship and Community Engagement unit in Student Life.

“Community service learning gives students the opportunity to extend their education beyond the classroom and learn first-hand about social issues in environments and situations they might not have experienced before,” says Janet Doner, co-ordinator of citizenship and community engagement.

As the departure date nears, participants are busy preparing with planning meetings, readings and training sessions. Once the volunteer program begins, they'll be keeping journals and reflecting to develop insights into the issues affecting marginalized communities. They also cover their own expenses. A carefree getaway it's not.

“It's a unique opportunity for transformational learning that happens in a short period of time,” says Doner. “The key to the program is the critical reflection and applying what is learned.”

Locally, a team will work with the AIDS Committee of Guelph and Wellington County, developing classroom workshops to teach local high school students about HIV/AIDS.

Another group will travel to the Nawash Unceded First Nation in the Georgian Bay region, exploring the economic development challenges and opportunities facing the community in areas such as education, child care, women's rights, fisheries and band administration.

Out west, volunteers will work with the University of British Columbia's learning exchange program, help out with an elementary school literacy program and learn about the various non-profit initiatives in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The fourth team will head for Hattiesburg, Miss. There they'll learn about the civil rights movement, conducting interviews and transcribing recordings for a University of Southern Mississippi oral history project. They will also help with various hurricane relief projects in a region that is still rebuilding more than three years after the devastation of Katrina.

Janet Doner
519 824-4120, Ext. 52782

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt at Ext. 53338, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982,

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