For the past 3 years I have had the unbelievable pleasure of volunteering with the Education Students’ Society with their community outreach organization; Project Connect. Most of the volunteers that work with project connect only get to experience part of the whole thing, but with E.S.S. I get to experience the whole thing from the initial planning, the fundraising, the final planning and than the actual volunteering. People always talk about how great it is to volunteer with different organizations, but many of them only get to take part in the final product.
While Project Connect may be the most stressful thing that I do with the E.S.S., it is also one of the most meaningful things that E.S.S. does. Project Connect is when the E.S.S. organizes a day of activities for a community school. This weekend was Kitchener School, since the weather was so cold many of the students were unable to attend. It caught me off guard when the staff representative informed me that out of the 20 students that are registered, less than half would likely be attending because their guardians were unable to bring them, and it was too cold for the students to walk in the cold weather. I have been with project connect for 3 years, not once have I encountered this problem. The other volunteers did not pay much attention to the fact that we were short kids, but I had different feelings about it, part of me was frustrated because for every student that is signed up we have to pay a certain amount of money for their lunch, supplies and activities. So when a large amount of students are missing, it takes money away from those that are able to attend. But, the a different part of me felt bad for the students, project connect is something that a lot of students really enjoy, it is something that not all schools in Regina can take part in. Which made me start to think about different ways to prevent this problem in the future. How do schools ensure that students will always be attending classes, they cannot cancel class every time the weather is cold, so how do different schools deal with this problem. The school buses make a big difference, because it ensures that students have a safe and reliable way to school, but on weekends there are no school buses. Other schools use taxis to bring some of the students from their houses to school and back, so maybe we can figure out a pick up/ drop up system where those that are unable to attend because of outside factors may have the opportunity.
The theme this weekend was Art, so four different activities were planned; bubble wrap art, t-shirt design, hand print art, and improv. The students all loved the different pieces of art. In the afternoon we brought the students to the university to take part in different activities. The first part of the afternoon was the students getting a tour of the university. The rest of the afternoon had lots of different pieces of art, we had an area for modelling clay, and one for making different creative things out of plates and Styrofoam balls. We also had two different paint stations set up, a comic strip area and a Popsicle stick colouring place. The kids all loved the day and asked repeatedly if we could come back next weekend. I wish that we were able to come back more often, but other schools get to take part in project connect.
Project Connect is a lot of work, it is stressful and at times I wish that we just donated money to causes rather than organize our own event. But once the day is actually happening, it is so rewarding. The students have so much fun, and the whole experience is educational for me as a teacher, who takes this as a chance to see what classroom management techniques work, and what doesn’t. Volunteering is great, but being able to make my volunteering impact what I do as a teacher makes it even better.