Student Life

The revival of McGill’s Community Engagement Day

Held in the University Centre on Oct. 26, Community Engagement Day (CED) made a strong reappearance this year. The event, run by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and McGill Campus Life and Engagement (CLE), aims to put students in contact with local McGill and Montreal-based volunteering groups. This year, it featured around 30 organizations from the greater Montreal area.

It was a lively scene in the SSMU Ballroom, which was filled with a ring of booths toward one end and an Art Hive workshop pop-up on the other. Free lunch was provided for attendees, who filtered in and out throughout the afternoon.

Maria Radu, BA ‘22 and the current SSMU Community Engagement Commissioner, helped organize Thursday’s event. CED was established in 2012 but hadn’t been run at this scale since 2017.

“I wanted to bring [CED] back, because it’s a really cool event, and I think that it’s a great opportunity for students to get involved,” Radu said. “I did a very small one last year in the winter, just to kind of test the waters and try it out. And it went really well. We got a lot of great feedback. I wanted to do it on a bigger scale this year.”

Radu aims to hold the event annually and grow it to a similar scale as SSMU’s Activities Night.

“There’s a lot of opportunities that I think students don’t know about,” Radu commented. “So I’m happy to help promote them.”

Organizations attending this year’s CED ranged from Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization that provides mentors to youth with adverse childhood experiences, to Tel-Aide, a volunteer-run mental health hotline.

Community Cooks Collective (CCC) was one of those organizations. Founded in 2020, CCC is a group that seeks to address food insecurity in the Montreal area by delivering home-cooked meals to three local food shelters.

“We’re looking to grow the roster of cooks and build up our organizing team to be able to expand operations further,” Tatiana Townsley, a CCC volunteer explained.

Arabel Morin, U3 Arts, visited CED after finding it on MyInvolvement, a platform connecting students with engagement opportunities at McGill. 

“I was looking for more volunteering opportunities this year, just because it’s my last full year at McGill,” Morin explained. “I want to build new connections and do something good every once in a while..”

Concordia student Diego Fraser-del-Carpio was running the booth for The Refugee Centre (TRC), an organization which aids refuge-seekers in Montreal, providing services such as job searches, housing, and health and wellness support. 

“What volunteers help with most is filling out the refugee claimant application; the first step into getting into the refugee claimant process,” Fraser-del-Carpio said.

Jeanne Marengère, U3 Arts and TRC volunteer, has helped refugee claimants with this crucial step, translating and typing out their stories into the application form. 

“It’s really cool because we get to hear people’s stories from all over the world who are just coming to Canada,” Marengère said. “Oftentimes their stories are really sad and emotional, but it’s also very gratifying to know that you have helped someone find safety in Canada.”

Between internships, clubs, and intramural sports teams, there are many ways that university students can become involved in communities beyond the bounds of the classroom. With all these opportunities to engage, what makes volunteering as a student special?

“A lot of the time McGill can be quite a bubble, that students have trouble stepping out of,” Radu said. “A lot of organizations in Montreal really want student involvement. A lot of people volunteering at these organizations are out of school and have been for a long time, so they want a fresh student perspective.”

Those who were unable to attend can find opportunities on MyInvolvement or check out the Volunteer Bureau of Montreal.

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