Gaining Work Experience Before Finishing a Bachelor’s Degree

Staff photos 2018 (11 of 17) 

I remember the moment that I found I was accepted to the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Arts Co-operative Education program. I was so excited to tell my family and friends because I was thrilled about the opportunity. I remember feeling so happy and grateful for the chance to gain valuable work experience before graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics. Shortly after my acceptance into the program, I got an email from the Co-op Program suggesting that I participate in Discover Arts, a new event- where students highlight their accomplishments and skills to potential Co-op employers. I was delighted to be able to apply for this, and after submitting an application, was subsequently accepted to represent the Linguistics department as a Linguistics Coop Student, responsible for creating a trifold that showcased my individual skills and talents as well as speaking to what the Linguistics program offers for students.

I stepped into the Taylor Family Digital Library- where the Discover Arts event was being held, not knowing what to expect. I was a third year Linguistics student with a concentration in Speech Language Sciences, and was interested in pursuing a career in speech language pathology, where I could become a healthcare clinician, helping people with speech and language communication problems. At first, I was only familiar with research-oriented jobs that were specifically associated with my field of interest. Little did I know that this event would really open up my world. I learned a great deal about the companies and organizations represented at the event, and was able to tell them about my experience as a student as well. I did not know where the Co-op program would take me, but I was open and —more than anything— ready to open my eyes to the endless amount of possibilities that would help build my career as a young professional.

Towards the end of the event, I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew Barry, the Coordinator, Community Engagement with the Leadership and Student Engagement office (LSE), as well as Meghan Day and Hannah Nesbitt, the two Community Engagement Assistants at LSE, at that time. It was a very positive experience meeting and interacting with them. Meghan and Hannah were very enthusiastic about their positions and clearly loved their work in the office. I did not know much about this office before I had interacted with them, however, after the interaction, it sparked my interest. Sometime later, I saw a job posting for the Community Engagement Assistant position with the LSE. I had not considered applying for it at first, as I was focused on pursuing opportunities that would improve my chances of getting accepted to the Masters of Speech Language Pathology program. I was not sure how this position would help me on my journey to graduate school, but am happy today that my initial hesitation did not stop me from applying. I had a conversation with my mom that night and I said that I had a gut feeling that is telling me to apply for this position, and with her support, I did exactly that.

I am thankful for that feeling, because working at the LSE as a co-op student has been an amazing and unforgettable experience. I was excited to accept the position and start working at this office, but little did I know how much I would learn in such a short period of time. As I began my co-op experience at the LSE, I was very fortunate to meet and work with some amazing, like-minded people in this office, people who have supported me and helped to push me toward success.

In addition to Andrew, I am grateful to work with Carllie Necker, Manager, at Leadership and Student Engagement. I always knew I could ask for her and Andrew’s support and they have helped guide me, taught me so much, as well as have aided me in becoming the best I can be. My first main task along with my coworker and the other new co-op student Milana, was to start planning for the Day and Night of Service. These two events happened the week after Fall Orientation. New students to the University of Calgary get the opportunity to go out into the community, volunteer with different non-profit organizations, and learn about various social justice issues.

In addition to this event, a big part of my job has been to support the organization and coordination of the ucalgarycares programs. There are currently five ucalgarycares programs offered in the Community Engagement portfolio, including: Homelessness at Home, Sustainable Cities, Global Citizenship in Toronto, Culture and Community Development in Costa Rica, and Indigenous Leadership and Engagement in the Yukon. Each of these programs are focused on a certain aspect of social justice such as homelessness, sustainability, leadership, community, and Indigenous culture and people. Other programs include Tzedaqah-Sadakah (a night of service event where the LSE partners with the Faith and Spirituality Centre), Involvement Advising (where staff assist students looking to get more involved on campus), and Trick or Eat (an annual event aimed at helping reduce food insecurity on campuses nationwide).

Currently, I am finishing my second work term and heading into my third, and last, work term with Leadership and Student Engagement. This has been an incredible experience. I have learned so many different skills through this job so far, including organizational skills, people skills, networking skills, and time management skills, to name a few. I have never organized an event such as the Day and Night of Service, which taught me event planning skills as well as learning to liaise with external community partners like Habitat for Humanity and the Calgary International Film Festival. This position has also helped me gain skills that will help me greatly in my future career in linguistics because I have learned how to write formally, and have learned to work closely with vulnerable populations. I cannot wait to see what my last work term at the LSE holds for me. I am excited and ready to take on whatever tasks and responsibilities there will be in the final term of the Co-op program.

A big inspiration for me to apply for this position was actually reading Meghan Day’s blog post about her co-op experience. With that said, I hope you can find some inspiration through reading about my story and that you are able to create your own unique and beautiful experiences with the amazing Co-op Program.


-Brielle Usher

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“In the Yukon, we all take one for the team”

When I first applied to be part of the Indigenous Leadership and Engagement program, I did not realize the extent to which 11 days volunteering in the Yukon would alter my perspectives about life and community. Leading up to the trip, we had pre-service and NAPI workshops, where all the members got a feel for each other and the knowledge we’d be learning throughout the process. During the workshops, I experienced slight anxiety as I was the youngest of the group and had not yet felt really connected to anyone, even though we were told that by the end of the trip we’d all become best friends. I was worried I’d be the odd one out and not become close to anyone. Looking back, that worry amuses me because what I’d been told was right, I ended up with 11 new amazing friends.

From weird and deep conversations, to late night dance parties, to wild karaoke car trips, to dying together while trying to lift 300+ pound picnic tables, to beach days, to dump days, to painting days, I became closer to these strong women (and the lovely Andrew) than I am with some of my best pals. We became our own community filled with strong leaders, support, and inspiration. I never questioned, for a minute during the entire trip, whether I fit in or not. Having such strong bonds with all the team members really added to the learning about the importance of community from the Kluane and the Teslin Tlingit Nations.

I learned that, in Northern communities, being connected to others and the surrounding land is a fundamental and vital part of life. This knowledge was easy to come across because I could see examples of it anywhere I looked. While volunteering with Uncle Sploosh (a bubbly and kind Burwash local, comedian, belly dancer, and hard worker), he’d stop to talk with anyone passing by! One lady saw we were headed to the dump and asked if we could pick up some things from her house to add to the load. Even though it was not on our list of what to do, Sploosh was totally willing to help. He told us that in the community of about 90, everyone was either related or good friends. Mary Jane, a very knowledgeable and sweet Elder we met in Burwash, explained how the members of Burwash Landing come together to when there is a death to allow the family to grieve. She also provided a glimpse of how the Kluane Nation is part of, and relies, on the environmental community. We were told stories about how to make tea on a fire and how to cook moose meat! She talked about hunting and hiking, and that she used to do a lot of hikes back in the day. Another topic she touched on a lot was climate change and how it is affecting the Kluane Nation as their traditional ways of living off the land are being changed.

Community was everywhere I looked in the Yukon. At the Kluane Research Station, we met the amazing staff and researchers who gladly and warmly welcomed and accepted us. They were just as much a part of our group as the group members themselves and were open to sharing their knowledge and stories! They even threw a going away/birthday party for us on the last night at the station. In Teslin, we worked in a community garden which clearly brought the town together in growing plants and veggies that they could use for meals or share with others. Our fabulous co-lead Tessa introduced us to her grandma and mum who welcomed all of us! Her grandma even cooked a meal for 18! I think the hospitality is what I’m not used to seeing in Calgary.

So even though the program is centred around Indigenous leadership and engagement, I learned so much about community and how I feel as though I’m lacking that feeling of being connected back home. I had the time of my life during the 11-day trip, where I learned valuable life lessons and met so many interesting people who all had something to share. Even though the Yukon and the people in it stole a piece of my heart, I left the trip with my heart having never felt so full! In the wise words of Uncle Sploosh, “in the Yukon, we all take one for the team.”


– Alix Devlin

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Rewarding and Life Changing

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My favorite part of the trip was seeing the beautiful scenery and lakes in the Yukon. As soon as I arrived at the place we stayed (the Kluane Lake Research Station), I was fascinated by the breathtaking views that surrounded me. During my stay at the Kluane Lake Research Station, I had the opportunity to go on two hikes. I was really grateful for being able to enjoy the nature and the fresh air there. On our last night at the Kluane Lake Research Station, the staff held a BBQ/farewell party for us by the beach. The stunning view of the sunset and clear water made me feel like I was in a wonderland. It was such a privilege for me to be in this wonderland.

There were a few challenges, which I encountered and grew from during the trip. Frist, I survived the days when I did not have cell phone and wifi services. Without the distraction of technology, I was more engaged in the present moment by admiring the nature and enjoying my peers’ company. As I spent more time being present with my peers, I learned so much from their unique life experiences and I was really inspired by them in so many different ways. Second, I overcame the challenge of sharing a cabin with multiple people. Since my roommates were super respectful and opened-up, I ended up really enjoying their company. We became close because of this roommate experience.

Prior to the trip, the Project Leaders did a great job to inform me regarding what to expect in the Yukon. As the Project Leaders already warned me about how demanding the physical labor could be, I was not surprised about the actual work I had to do. In fact, the physical labor part was not as bad as I imagined. The program actually exceeded my expectations. I have gained so many valuable experiences out of this trip. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to engage with local residents at Teslin through cleaning up their yards and having dinner at their homes. Through my conversations with them, they shared first-hand knowledge, stories and talked about their way of life. On Canada Day, we visited a cultural centre in Whitehorse. I very much enjoyed watching the performances there and hanging out at the gallery, learning about Indigenous art. Through visiting museums, I learned a little bit about the traditions and histories of the local First Nations. I also learned that Indigenous culture is not just one culture. Instead, there are many Indigenous cultures.

I thoroughly enjoyed the laid-back lifestyle we experienced in the Yukon. In a small community, people know each other and they watch out for each other. Although the materials are limited in the Yukon, people thrive on the limited resources. For example, instead of counting on imported meats, people go hunting and smoke their own meats. Also, as cell phone coverage is limited, people in some areas do not have cell phone services all the time. Without extensive cell phone service coverage, people value face-to-face communication more than online communication. From seeing how local people adapt themselves to limited resources, I learned that I don’t need much to live a good life. Sometimes, a simple lifestyle can bring contentment. Because of limited resources, people are aware of conserving the resources and are more grateful for what they have. Living in a resourceful city, I appreciated the convenience I have. Also, the Yukon experience has made me to be more aware of not wasting resources. During one of the workshops, I learned many ways of conserving resources, and I would like to apply that learning to my daily life.

For me, the most valuable part of the program was the relationship I built with the rest of the group. Each individual brought their own strengths and unique personalities to the team. I was surprised by how open and supportive everyone was to each other. There was no negative judgment for anyone’s contributions to group discussions. Everyone’s contribution to the team was recognized and appreciated. The Project Leaders and Assistant did such an amazing job to create a respectful, safe, and positive environment for everyone to grow and learn from each other. Every participant also played a key role to sustain the positivity and make the entire trip memorable, exciting and special! I would definitely recommend that everyone participates in this rewarding and life changing trip.

– Helen Ling

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My time in the Land of the Midnight Sun

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The ucalgarycares 2018 – Indigenous Leadership and Engagement Yukon trip far exceeded my expectations in so many ways. This trip was a personal one because the main reason I wanted to go was to learn more about Indigenous communities in hopes that it would build my courage enough to meet my birth father for the first time. My father is Indigenous and lives on a reserve in Manitoba. I hoped that I could learn more about Indigeneity and how Indigenous communities function together, and experience how it would feel to be a stranger in a new place. I was amazed to see how each community we visited greeted us with open arms and kindness; the group blended well with everyone as every person was so inclusive and always put a smile on every face we crossed, and we made every place we went feel like its own small community.

At times, the volunteer work was more than we expected, but it always seemed to fly by with such great company! Some volunteering tasks were difficult, but always rewarding. For example, we weeded and planted in the community garden for a family who was recently devastated by a house fire, and an elderly gentleman who could no longer take care of his garden. It was amazing to step back after and visually see a difference. I was a part of the group who installed signs for the Kluane Lake Research Station along the highway. It was a great feeling to know that we helped with something so useful. Everyone will easily find the station now. The group always left things better than they found it!

I’m so grateful for all the amazing, honest, weird (in the most beautiful and pure way), and engaging conversations that the group had. They have helped me grow and further fuelled my passions. It was such a beautiful empowering experience to be with an almost all female group (Andrew, you are amazing). I will be honest, I was worried about being in a group with so many women, but I was wrong to worry… every single person was so strong, passionate, uniquely brilliant, and beyond hilarious!

Not only did I learn so much about every community we went to, I was able to create my own. I cherish the friendships that I built on this trip. In just 12 days, I grew more than I had ever anticipated, mentally and, unfortunately, physically (I ain’t lying… the food was absolutely to die for)!

Among the many valuable things I learned is I believe this trip brought truth to this quote by Donald H. McGannon: “Leadership is action, not position.” Everyone was a leader in the Yukon!

Thank you,

Savana Roy

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My love for the Yukon runs deep

When I applied to the Indigenous Leadership and Engagement (Yukon) program, I had the approach that all I would do is to sit amongst the elders and learn everything in that mode of teaching. I felt that because I wanted to pursue medicine, I would learn cultural competency. It is one thing to learn about cultural competency, indigeneity, and history in theory and it is another thing to learn from the First Nations people themselves. I felt that in order to be a good clinician, I needed to understand the intricate cultures of our First Nations people. With this mindset, I applied to the program.

When I did encounter the Yukon for the first time, I felt a feeling of isolation that I could never experience at its most blissful state anywhere else. The mountain glaciers, the beaches, the animals were incredibly attractive to me. For example, to be ‘within’ myself, I would go to the beach to collect rocks, which consisted of quartz and graphites. I took these rocks back to Calgary as souvenirs. What was most memorable was that I witnessed a mama bear and her two cubs for 5 minutes just swimming and playing in a lake. What a sight! I can’t imagine seeing this again. I felt an understanding of why the land is so important to our First Nations people. Why they fight for the land and live on the land. I felt how beautiful it was to be on this land, untouched and raw.

To engage in leadership was the crux of this trip and I experienced that with 12 other people. I painted a school with my new friends. I built a little greenhouse. I cleaned up dumps and found free things to take back to Calgary! One of the most remarkable teachings I had were from Grandpa Splash, a very robust man with a tiny stature who showed me a strong work ethic. Although he would never lose an opportunity to crack a joke, he did not lose focus with respect to his work. This resonated with me because the people in the area we were in were all incredibly hard working. I felt as though… I could be doing more. I met an elder who spoke so softly yet felt so strong in her voice. She taught me how to build myself with a calm demeanor and firm vocals.

This trip gave me much more than I could give it, simply based on the fact that I took so much away from it. My blog will not do justice to the richness of the Yukon. My friendships run deep with my new friends. My devotion towards advocating for the First Nations people runs deep. My love for the Yukon runs deep.

Until we meet again, land of the midnight sun,

Farwa Naqvi

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My Time With The LSE – A Coop Story

1.MAYAfter getting my acceptance into the University of Calgary’s Coop Distinction program, my head immediately filled with what can only be coined “Overactive Imaginings”. I saw myself working in a stylish office downtown – where important meetings were held behind closed doors, where Business Formal was the only uniform, and where the fast paced lifestyle would rival that of an episode of Suits. I pictured skyscrapers, shiny cars, high heels and important dossiers…

…I’m nothing if not dramatic.


What I never expected was to find a listing for a Service-Learning Assistant here on campus, a Coop position with Leadership and Student Engagement (LSE). It caught my eye, however, nestled neatly in and among the of other job ID’s that flood Career Link in the month of March. I didn’t apply for it the first time it ran across my screen. I was in Political Science, I had my sights set on Law school, and working with the LSE’s Community Engagement portfolio didn’t look to be a piece that would fit into my life’s overly complicated puzzle.


If I could go back in time and talk some sense into that skeptical third year student, I would do so in a heartbeat.


It wasn’t until a particularly crowded holiday dinner towards the end of the semester that the Service-Learning Assistant position found its way back onto my radar. Though I had applied for multiple other Coop positions, none had filled me with the excitement I thought I craved, none had inspired in me the same feeling that my Coop acceptance had brought. It was at this point that an acquaintance from campus approached me, one with whom I had shared stories, jokes, and little else.


Alycia Lauzon was the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Leadership and Student Engagement Office, and had spent the last 10 years of her life connecting students to volunteer and service learning opportunities in a way that shifted many of their lives. While she has now left the University of Calgary to pursue her dreams, she has been replaced by Andrew Barry – my boss, my friend, and an inspiration. At the time, she spoke with me about her position and the fulfillment it gave her, and throughout the night I found our conversation leading me down a path that I had never expected.


I wanted the Service-Learning Assistant position. More than that, I needed it. The thought of helping students connect with their community, the thought of combatting isolation in our city through volunteer projects and intercultural programs brought me joy. For the first time in my Coop search, I wasn’t thinking about what would help my career – I was thinking about myself.


This job has offered me so many opportunities and I am hard pressed to count them without losing track. I have been tasked with sharing some of these opportunities and these tasks with you, but please be aware that no words can accurately describe the depth of what our portfolio truly does.


Day of Service

The Community Engagement portfolio at LSE run two one-day service events throughout the year, the Day of Service and the Night of Service. During these programs students are matched with community partners. The participants spend their day learning about the impact these organizations have on the community, and helping with a volunteer or service activity.


At the beginning of my first Coop term, my coworker Hannah and I were tasked with running the first Day of Service. A program limited to first year students, “Day of Service” is unique in that it marks many students foray into the University, just as it marks the Service-Learning Assistants’ foray into their new position. Hannah and I quickly jumped in to the planning and administrative work involved in the Day of Service – contacting community partners, recruiting Team Leaders, marketing the events to new students. With the success of Day of Service, Hannah and I felt a pride in our work that to this day has been unsurpassed. It was a moment where we realized we could do amazing things, both in this position, and in our futures.



The main programs run by the Community Engagement portfolio, ucalgarycares encompass between five and six immersive programs that run for between 1 and 2 weeks. The programs we ran in the 2017/2018 ucalgarycares cycles are as follows.

  1. Homelessness at Home: a partnership with the Mustard Seed, Homelessness at Home is a Calgary program that teaches students about the difficulties and barriers faced by those who are homeless or financially burdened.
  2. Sustainable Cities: our second in city program, Sustainable Cities teaches students about the four pillars of sustainability (Nature, Economy, Social and Wellness) and how our city is tackling these pillars through different organizations.
  3. Global Citizenship: our only limited program, Global Citizenship sees a group of first year students visiting Toronto and learning about what Globalization means, how it affects individuals, and how they can become responsible and globally conscious.
  4. Culture and Community Development: Culture and Community Development is currently our only international program. It is also our longest, with participants spending two weeks in Costa Rica, helping volunteer with our partners on La Isla Chira
  5. Indigenous Leadership and Engagement: a program run in late summer, Indigenous Leadership and Engagement occurs in the Yukon, where students communicate and learn about Indigenous communities and their traditions and culture.

These 5 programs have consisted of the bulk of our work during the past 10 months. I have had the pleasure of being involved with volunteers, participants, community partners and other incredible individuals in the facilitation of these events. Although the workload can vary from slow at times to mind blowingly busy at others, it has never felt less than an absolute privilege to be a part of the admin and facilitation work with ucalgarycares. From recruitment, to organizing workshops, to leading volunteer events, to creating Project Leader binders, the experience has been a thrill.


Other programs/projects

As well as the Days of Service and the ucalgarycares programs, this job has a beautifully diverse range of programming that students can take advantage of, some of which I am listing below.

  • Tzedakah-Sadakah: An Interfaith collaboration with the Faith and Spirituality Centre
  • Trick or Eat: A Meal Exchange program wherein students go “Trick or Eating” for food donations that will then be delivered to both the SU Campus and Calgary Food Banks.
  • Involvement Advising: Wherein staff at the Leadership and Student Engagement office offer co-curricular advice for students who wish to be more involved on campus.


Fast forward from that conversation with Alycia, almost 12 months to the day, and I am both sad and exultant to be moving on from my time as a Service-Learning Assistant. I am sad for losing the feeling of fulfilment I get every day when on my way to work, sad for the friendships that will undoubtedly change once my daily routine becomes my daily memory, however I am exultant for the student who will receive the same opportunities that I have. I find myself thinking about the individual who will replace me, about the frustration, the pride and ultimately the joy they will feel in this position, and it makes me smile.

Whoever you are, I hope you are reading this, and I hope this position expands your horizons in the same beautiful way that it has for me.

-Meghan Day (PS: That’s me on the right)

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Toronto Trip Halfway Discoveries

The past four days in Toronto have given me some of the most amazing volunteer opportunities, captivating discussions and lifelong memories. The day after arriving, we took a walking tour of downtown. Despite having lived here before, I saw it through a new lens and learnt interesting facts about the city that I was unaware of before. Afterwards, we attended a social justice presentation where we not only learnt about social justice, but also took part in the cooking and really bonded as a group.


Since then, the activities we engaged in and late-night discussions we have had make me think we are not first-years who were mere strangers a few months ago; it feels as if we have known each other for years. We have not only been discovering our strengths together, we have also been discovering what issues fuel our passion. We all want to make a difference, but the realm of social justice is vast. Whether it is playing with children at Safe Haven, putting together ‘Good Food’ boxes at FoodShare or learning about Indigenous culture at the Native Child and Family services centre, this trip helps us all find what inspires us.


Today was one of those remarkable days that, as one of my friends Bella would say, seemed to “light a spark” in us. We volunteered at the Parkdale Community Food Bank and met some of the most kind-hearted individuals. After helping with restocking and unloading the food truck, we had the privilege of personally giving supplies to many of the foodbank users. Seeing first-hand just how happy someone can be about receiving a necessity that we often take for granted was incredibly humbling. Even more amazing was the selflessness of the people I met; before taking the food, one lady asked if there was enough for the others. After the foodbank, we travelled to the Native Child and Family services centre, which is an awe-inspiring building that ties together beautiful architecture with rich Indigenous culture. Not only did we participate in a smudging ceremony and learn about sweat lodge purifications, we also had the honor of learning from Terri, who is an amazing woman with a remarkable story. Despite being adopted by a non-Aboriginal family and not being able to meet her birth parents, Terri learnt about her Indigenous roots herself and became involved in her community to help children who could be in similar situations. She learnt the value of Indigenous culture and now aims to eliminate the stigma and create a more cohesive Canadian society, which is one of the realms of social justice that fuels my passion.


Personally, I think today was my favourite day. But maybe I will say that again tomorrow.


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The glimpse of Toronto: Global Citizenship

The idea of travelling has always fascinated me. Being a first-year student is an overwhelming position. Many of us are still getting to know the campus, the people around us, constantly experiencing stress and finding it difficult to make friends. Noticing the opportunity of being an active citizen, and getting to travel to a different province, gave me a sense of courage and explore my boundaries. Coming into the first day of the workshop I did not know what to expect. We were shown a video about targeting the idea of privilege and how it is leveled based on a person’s thought of their own privileges. The people who were thought to have less privilege are


Coming into the first day of the workshop I did not know what to expect. We were shown a video about targeting the idea of privilege and how it is leveled based on a person’s thought of their own privileges. The people who were thought to have less privilege are shown to be at the back of the line while those who thought to have more privilege are shown to be at the front. The concept of the exercise is to portray an understanding of what it means to have privilege and how other people have more, or less, than others. The video itself gives an important impact within ourselves and how we value these privileges.


One of the most fascinating workshop I encountered was the By stander intervention. The idea of a bystander just getting involved in scenarios where actions may hurt others can vary in many ways. There are ways in which people may approach it through comfort for the victims. There are also some who approach it in a more direct way. Throughout this workshop I’ve learned that a simple distraction can help.


February 17, 2018, It was three in the morning when I got up and started to make breakfast. I arrived exactly four o’clock in the morning and there was my team leaders, Ahmed and Cassie, and the other girls. We were too tired to even think properly. I even forgot to check in my luggage back when we were about to cross the security lane check; Ahmed and I went back to check in my luggage and when we came back, the nice security let us through the priority lane. We got through before the others, and so we waited for them.


It was almost one o’clock when we arrived at the hostel. We got to settle in our bags and everyone is starving. We all went out to eat at a vegetarian restaurant near us and got our food. The food is remarkably delicious. As an individual, who is not vegetarian at all, I must say this restaurant has some delicious foods to offer.


We all went back to the hostel and the team leaders went to check what groceries we needed for the week. The team leaders and a few volunteers from the group including me, all went to Loblaw to do our groceries and when we finished, we went back to the hostel.


To wrap up our first day we all had free pasta that the hostel offered, and others stayed downstairs to play some board games, some went to their beds to sleep. And by some, I meant me.

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A Night of Service

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Inspired, taken back and a new perspective are some of the feelings that arose in me after volunteering at the HIV Community Link for the Night of Service. When our group first arrived at the HIV Community Link, we were led into the presentation room, which was filled with snacks, tea and other beverages. Here was where our perception of HIV/AIDS would be changed forever. We all anxiously waited for Mark, the man who would speak to us about HIV/AIDS for about an hour before we helped with creating Condom packages. As we waited, we could hear a remarkable laughter coming from the end of the hall, the type of laughter that reminded you of a jolly Santa, we soon found out that this was Mark.

Now, let me tell you about Mark. He is truly one of the most inspiring humans I have ever come across. He has a smile that literally lights up the room, he is open to anything and everything (as he says, “there is no bad question, only questions.”), and an aura around him that makes you feel like you have known him for ages. Mark has been living with HIV for almost 30 years; he was diagnosed in the late 1980’s. The stories he told us about living with HIV were remarkable and heart breaking all at once. His perseverance through not only his health struggles, but also the stigma and discrimination he has received as someone living with HIV is truly extraordinary. He presented to us in a very light hearted and personable way a PowerPoint on everything to know about HIV/AIDS including treatment, stigma, statistics and much more. Throughout, all of us engaged in questions and comments that sparked a completely new perspective for us all. Such as the stigma around HIV/AIDS contributing to the lack of knowledge in our society. Or the lack of education in our schools curriculum. Or even the stigma around getting tested for HIV/AIDS, which everyone should do regularly. The one thing that Mark told us that stuck out the most for me is the stigma around HIV/AIDS being associated with “dirty” people or “criminal activity.” People who are living with HIV/AIDS are not gross, nor dirty. They are simply humans who have unfortunately contracted this virus through the “perfect” transmission equation. This statement really opened my eyes, and the groups, as sometimes we have a subconscious view about others based upon stereotypes and stigmas. My experience at the HIV Community Link was life changing and has motivated me even more in the social justice fight. I highly recommend anyone to volunteer at the HIV Community Link or learn about their programs and services that they offer.


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Yukon 2017 – First Days of July

On July 3rd, we made our way to Haines Junction to partake in our community service. Due to the unfavorable weather, our initial plan of staining the Village Bakery deck changed to helping a local community pastor pull weeds from the community garden. Village Bakery provided us with very good complimentary coffee. Their kindness to our group was very much appreciated! Other members helped a local community member cut willow trees and cleaned a domestic area. Although the weather was poor, our team spirit blossomed and allowed us to create a healthy environment where we happily completed our community service.

Following completion of the community service, we made our way to DAKU Museum. We had two informative tour guides that shared with us the historical and cultural knowledge of the local Indigenous communities. We then were shown a fantastic movie regarding the environmental impacts.

We then made our way to Kathleen Lake, where many of the group partook in a 13 kilometre hike. The group members who were unable to make the hike returned to Haines Junction to recycle some goods at the waste management facility. Within the facility, there was a ‘Free Store’ where we got to take some gently used free items! We then returned to the communal cookhouse on Kathleen Lake where we roasted smokies and participated in an insightful NAPI Level 2 workshop.

On July 4th, We participated in an activity called the “Blanket Exercise” in which we pretended to be different First Nations’ communities while our team leaders re-enacted the history of North America’s colonization with us. While the leaders read the cold historical facts, we related on a personal level to these sad events and experienced but a sample of the emotional trauma suffered by North America’s colonized peoples. Afterwards, after many tears shed by all, we added our own emotional traumas and personal relationships to the information communicated during the exercise. The tears continued and many a tissue was used as we became closer as a group over this inspiring activity.

Later in the day, we made our way to Burwash Landing to paint the deck surrounding the community centre; however, we were met again with less-than-ideal weather and were thus directed to some picnic tables in need of repair. After drilling these tables back into shape, we went to the Kluane Burwash Landing Museum where we learned about the local fauna and their habitats as well as the construction of the Alaska Highway.

We came back to a fantastic Fourth of July celebration meal consisting of homemade hamburgers, onion, mushrooms and the like in honour of the American scholars with whom we share the Arctic Research Institute. Although a number of us got together for (another) competitive game of Scattegories, many of us retired early for the night as we had an early start planned for the rocky beach, played games, and then packed our bags to prepare for our departure to Teslin, via Whitehorse morning of the fifth.

On July 5th, we had an early departure back to Burwash Landing to complete our final day of community service on their reserve. Part of the UCalgaryCares group built a gazebo for the community while group members swept the hockey arena and three group members helped an elder fish and smoke salmon. Each volunteer service took the entirety of the day so we were excited to return to a delicious meal made by the professional cooks at the Arctic Institute. We celebrated the birthday of the Director with a delicious roast beef dinner and a chocolate cake. We then played rugby on the beach and had a community bonfire as our final day in the Research station.

-ucalgarycares participants

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