By Marie Wee, CCP Work Study Student, Seniors Project Program Assistant
I first became involved with the Centre for Community Partnerships (CCP) through their Alternative Reading Week Program (ARW) last February. I volunteered as a student participant with 3 other U of T students at Frontier College. This experience allowed us to reflect on the simple everyday things that we often take for granted – books – due to the privileges that we hold as university students. This is what I love about the CCP; all of their student-engaged community action programs emphasize on students learning from their one-on-one engagement with various diverse communities within Toronto and the GTA through an equity-focused lens. Within these safe and positive spaces that are fostered, students best learn what it means to be an ally to these respective communities in a respectful manner while also gaining practical community skills as socially responsible students.
Due to the many meaningful conversations that I have had the privilege to share with our community partners, I am now a program assistant for one of the many community programs we offer – the seniors’ friendly visiting program. We recently had our CAP (community action program) orientation with a turnout of 45 students. During the orientation, I had the opportunity to lead a group of students in thinking about: “What does community mean to them”, “What does it mean for us as students going into these communities”, and “What would they like to learn and achieve through their chosen community-action program”. We further discussed the ways in which student volunteers can remain mindful of the diversity that exists within these communities, and by doing so to be respectful and welcoming to the individuals whom we will be interacting with within these spaces. Lastly, we did several role-playing scenarios that depict what it will look like working in the community. This activity helps students to be best equipped with a wide variety of situations that they may encounter when volunteering within their chosen program. I loved the positive energy that everyone in the room brought and their enthusiasm for the community programs that they have signed up for. I have learned through my interactions with these students that community building is an ongoing collaborative work that is best achieved when students are given the opportunity to learn from their engagement within the community outside of U of T. As a program assistant, I hope that I will be able to continue to support these students throughout this year and have fun!