My Experiences with the CCP in First Year

Written by Vivian Ngo

Thinking back, it was really exciting to start school at UofT. The beautiful campus was something that left me in awe. Exploring magnificent buildings, taking in the gorgeous outdoor spaces on campus, and that sense of freedom that comes with being in post-secondary truly was a thrill. As excited as I was, there was a part of me that felt university life will be spent in isolation. I learnt how to get to my classes, where to go for help, and even met new friends in my classes but I later realized I was actually hoping to find a community at my new school. I wanted to be a part of the UofT community.

My good friend, Vicky La, introduced me to the many opportunities that were available at the CCP. There were so many different ways to represent my new school all around the city. I signed up to participate in Alternative Reading Week (ARW) that was being held during reading week in February.

I was placed on the ARW waiting list and ended up getting assigned to a project called ‘It’s Me to We’ hosted by an organization known as Dress for Success. Surprisingly, Dress for Success was located very close to campus and allowed for my fellow team and I to get to know our surrounding neighbourhood.

On the first day during ARW’s official launch, I met with my fellow team members who were also in the same project as me. We were a group of six who easily got along with each other and became friends.

As a team, we learnt Dress for Success’ purpose was to help empower women through providing professional attire to allow them to seek employment. Not everyone can seek employment and show up for an interview because of their lack of access to professional attire which is why Dress for Success accepts clothing donations to address this need.

Our job as ARW volunteers was to lift boxes of clothing, organize them and to place prices on them. As tedious as it sounds, it was actually quite enjoyable. We got to learn more about each other in our team during that time and witness firsthand how a community interacts.

There were clients who needed help to find employment; there were a group of friendly staff who were willing to dedicate themselves to help run Dress for Success, there were donators who willingly donated their lightly used clothing and lastly, there were volunteers who willingly used their time to help in any way possible.

It was great being able to represent our school in our community through ARW. At the same time, I realized I was a part of a community at my school. I was a part of a team of fellow students that was dedicated to learning by being engaged with our community.

After this experience, I was motivated to learn more about the other programs offered by the CCP.

This leads me to where I am now! Starting this September, I will have the chance to volunteer in a classroom with kindergarten students as a ‘From 3 to 3’ tutor and to start my trainings and meetings as a project leader to prepare for next year’s ARW! Needless to say, I’m excited and thankful for the opportunities that the CCP offers.

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Student Voices: ARW Reflection from Andrea Llanes

Project Name: ‘It’s New to Me’

Community Agency: Dress for Success

Project Leader: Sara Park

IMG_8542Project Description: Dress for Success Toronto is operated by the Live to Give Relief Organization. The mission of Dress for Success Toronto is to promote the economic independence of women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to thrive in work and in life. Students will be involved with preparations for our “It’s New to Me Sale”. This fundraising sale is part inventory reduction, and part sale of high-end garments which are not suitable for our boutique. Our volunteer Sorters have been setting clothing aside for this sale for 4 months now, so there is a large volume of boxes/bins that have been stored in our basement (approx. 50). Volunteers should be comfortable with carrying these boxes/bins up a flight of stairs (perhaps in pairs). Their weight could be up to 25 lbs. Once items are in our boutique, volunteers will be asked to assists with hanging and pricing items. Our last sale two-day sale generated $14,000, which as you can image, is important to supporting our fundraising goals for the year. www.dressforsuccess.org/toronto

IMG_8536Andrea,

I decided to participate in Alternative Reading Week in hopes of discovering new opportunities to volunteer throughout my time at University of Toronto. I was not entirely sure what the program was about, but seeing that its ultimate goal is to engage in community outreach activities, I knew that the experience would be largely hands-on and socially engaging. What makes the ARW program different from the previous community outreach activities that I have been a part of, however, was the fact that we did not focus on what the community lacks. Rather, we were taught to focus on what the community of Toronto already has, and doing something to help those organizations on doing their tasks.

IMG_8540My team and I worked with Dress for Success, which is a worldwide organization that provides professional clothing for women who are actively seeking for employment, especially those who cannot cover the expense of buying new expensive garments. They also facilitate workshops to guide them through the process of starting a new career. This was something that I was not aware of until we were introduced to the organization, and I truly admire their mission. Before we were told about our task for the following days, I thought that we would be working directly with the clients. On the contrary, we were actually given the opportunity to provide help towards the staff members of the organization in preparation for a community fundraising event. It was a very rewarding experience especially because of the amount of boxes we carried from the basement to the main floor, as well as the work we put into sorting the items; it leaves me at awe to think about how the staff members do these kinds of tasks every day. Overall, I learned to appreciate the fact that there are many organizations, within the city of Toronto alone, that are committed to helping any member of the community who needs support and guidance in any aspects of their lives. I plan on continuing my participation in Alternative Reading Week for my following years of study because I know that I still have a lot more to discover.

Thank you Andrea for your reflection! We’re glad to hear we’ll be seeing more of you the next few years! Have you considered becoming a project leader? Applications for ARW 2015-2016 are accepted until APRIL 1st! 🙂