Day one of an amazing adventure and life changing experience.

*Homelessness at Home took place on Feb 16-19 in Calgary, AB. Participants had no internet access during that time. The next blog post is a look back to the participants experiences.


Waking up at am to start this journey with the ucalgarycares Homelessness at Home program I was not sure what to expect. We arrived at The Mustard Seed (TMS) around 10:10 am and then we waited for the rest of the group. With everything we would need for this adventure, when the group arrived, we went inside the 102 building and started with introductions.

TMS coordinators for our program explained some history about TMS and then began to go over what our schedule looked like for the week. There were so many things to look forward to and so much to learn and with that the journey began! We took a tour of TMS facilities and got to see the apartments that many of the individuals who have received housing through TMS live.

Next we then went over to Alpha House. The responses to Alpha House were amazing, and the experience was real and heart breaking. We were wondering through a place were people resided, watching them as they observed us learning about the services available to them.

As a group we walked and talked about our experiences so far through out the day and then we returned to TMS 102 building were we received some data on hunger around the world and then participated in a hunger banquet. I am not going to provide all the details of this hunger banquet just in case you ever have the opportunity to attend. What I will tell you was that it is difficult to be separated from others based on choices that you did not make and circumstances alone, this was tough.

After all this, it was time to find out were we would be sleeping for the night. We walked with all of your belongs for a few blocks until we reached a church, beside the church was an old house. Once inside the house we separated girls upstairs and boys down stairs, after this long day I could not wait to rest and honestly I was so looking forward to what tomorrow had in store for us.


-Crystal Caneus (Homelessness at Home 2016 participant)

Posted in Homelessness at Home 2016, Student Posts | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Where does our waste go?

Today, with the Ucalgarycares sustainable cities team we explored the Shepard Landfill site and the Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Southwest Calgary. I didn’t know what to expect at first, but my first impressions were excellent. When we first arrived on the bus we were greeted by a very funny bus driver and then we rode off to the landfill. I learned many things while on tour of the landfill, ranging from composting stations, bicycle donations, waste management sites, city programs, proper garbage sorting methods, etc. The City of Calgary is currently making an extreme effort towards diverting garbage to the right location in order to maximize current and sustain landfill usage. By implementing many programs such as the Green Bin program launching in 2017, it will help alleviate the amount of garbage that goes into our landfills. Finding alternative ways to put our trash and ensuring it is done in the most safest and sustainable way is very important. Our cities are complex locations and leaving waste is one of the by-products of such metropolises. Without waste management, our cities would come to a halt and result in chaos. We need to focus on how we can reduce our garbage and maximize current landfill usage through education and programs to help the average citizen stay informed.
At the Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment plant in Southwest Calgary, I was impressed by the technology and resources we have in order to safely clean our wastewater to divert back into the Bow River. Calgary is located on the Bow River and has an important role in sustaining our environment and many other downstream. I learned that the Bow River actually finishes its journey at the Hudson Bay and that Calgary plays an important role in ensuring safety and cleanliness for communities and habitats downstream. I am amazed that Calgary is a top leader in Wastewater management and treatment in the Country. With innovative technology and resources, we can take care of our city, natural environments and habitats in order to sustain the livelihood and health of our region and planet. It takes local, provincial and regional effort and mutual agreement to reach our sustainable goals.  Environmental sustainability at large is a large and complex issue, but with innovation, determination and the will to help change the future we are able to achieve a sustainable future for our planet.
– Niko C.



Posted in Student Posts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

ucalgarycares Global Citizenship – Day 1 & 2

It’s been four days and it’s awesome so far, I did everything I was expecting from this trip. I discussed community issues with different perspective and talked on their solutions, met some inspiring people who are working hard for bringing a positive impact in people’s life. I learned about some technical terms and their practicality which I could have never heard of if I would not have been part of this amazing program. What social justice is? How important it is to take “Authorship” of your life, how much does your identity matter, in what ways sustainability is important for the society you are living in? Workshops on these topics helped me really to understand the true essence of these terms and I am so blessed to be a part of these wonderful discussions and presentations.

We worked with two organizations so far-“BIKE PIRATES”, and “THE STOP”. What takes it to step into these kind of philanthropic activities because these kind of organizations are public funded and they are non-profit organizations. How they motivate people to volunteer for these organizations? How they maintain the circle of order because they would be folded if people stop donating them. How they organize and administrate different events to promote their organizations. And the stories I heard were totally inspiring and made me to promise with myself that no matter who I am, where I am, how much resources I contain, I would dedicate myself to bring a change in the lives of people who are in my circle of influence.

I am living with a group of 13 amazing people who never make to feel like I am away from my home, We enjoy music before going to bed every night, respect each other, we cook together, and share stories of our lives with each other, we take a lot of photos, make memories and do lots and lots of crazy stuff. We are going to play board games tonight together somewhere in downtown and on Friday it would be Skating night and I am super excited for these nights. We are guided and mentored by 3 amazing persons- Alycia, Madeleine and Tina-and they are so awesome, they help us every time and in every way and yes we explored Toronto, came to know that Toronto is such a dynamic city and 6 million people (in the GTA) share the hustle and bustle of this city every day. I am an international student so Volunteering was kind of new concept for me and how life changing it is, I leaned in these 3 days, I experienced every bit of it and 4 days are left behind and I so excited for future week. And yes this was probably the best thing I did in my first year and I am feel so blessed every time, I meet inspiring people and visit new organization. A “life changing” experience it was!


IMG_9794 IMG_9777 IMG_9645 IMG_9614 IMG_9846

Posted in Global Citizenship, Reading Week 2016, Student Posts | Leave a comment

ucalgarycares! We Shall Be Together by Danny Ahmed

ucaglarycares! We Shall Be Together

By Danny Ahmed

Solidarity, We travel

Forth in boots, uggs, or flat shoes

Toronto, the Eastern City

of Canada

One of the first, we walk

In the limbs of the past

Where the future ideally comes

By in the unison and stasis

Brothers and sisters in arms,

Here we are reveling in a

Group situation, where bonds


As Seneca once said

It involves the beauty of


Where one can understand and

Be understood by others

Sandwiches, dishes, and honour

Side by side, we will help

our brethren

We are Albertans and Canadians

We represent the pinnacle of

Respect and human dignity

And will not back down

Limb to limb, eye to eye

We shall be selfless and

Enjoy the company of


Compassion, unity, and solidarity

We are UCalgary and

We care!


Posted in Student Posts | Leave a comment

Global Citizenship 2016 Day 1 & 2

Here is a little video we made just as an update to let all you know how’s it going and what we’ve been up to! Enjoy! 🙂

Posted in Student Posts | Leave a comment

ucalgarycares Reading Week

Our ucalgarycares participants are so excited for their service-learning programs happening in Calgary, Toronto, and New Orleans this Reading Week! We have students staying at the Mustard Seed in Calgary for the ucalgarycares Homelessness at Home program which explores ideas such as homelessness, poverty, and mental health. Another group of students will be exploring sustainability in Calgary through our ucalgarycares Sustainable Cities program. Our brand new ucalgarycares Global Citizenship program targeted towards first year students is taking place in Toronto, where participants will explore what it means to be an active citizen in the community.  Finally, our students will be returning to New Orleans this Reading Week for our ucalgarycares Building Healthy Communities to explore the effects of Hurricane Katrina and ideas of race, gender, education, and health. Keep up with our participants as they share their experiences and views on social justice issues through our blog!
-Sharleen Nijjar


Posted in Student Posts | Leave a comment

A Week in New Orleans: Five Photos

The ucalgarycares Building Healthy Communities and Food and Justice teams spent their Reading Weeks learning about food security, the social determinants of health, and what it means to build and live in a community.

After our trip, all of the team members are looking back and summarizing our trip and experiences in five photos. Tina and Martin from the Food and Justice team chose five photos that spoke to them, and summarized what they learned and experienced in New Orleans.

Our five photos represent different learning moments during our trip; a photo that summarizes the city of New Orleans to us, a an ‘aha’ moment where a piece of learning came together, a moment that challenged us, a photo that represents our team, and a photo we would use to show other students what the experience meant to us.

New Orleans

1. New Orleans in a photo

This is a photo of Mardi Gras decorated balconies in the french quarter. The age of the building reminds me of the deep history of the city and its people. I think the architecture looks french; I might be wrong.




A Challenging Moment

2. Something ChallengingThis was a challenging moment when we were confronted by the illogical nature of Greenlight’s free garden program. The program was built on grants in the interest of expanding local food production to curb society’s ecological footprint. By simply providing an individual with a garden, this program fails to educate and develop understanding of its supposed mission. It does not foster socially sustainable development.

An A-ha Moment

3. A-ha Moment


This is a photo of CRISP farms in the devastated and impoverished upper 9th ward. This is what a grassroots start up looks like. It likely filled a void for community dialogue about food issues.



Food and Justice

4. Food  Justice


Another photo at CRISP farms. The Food and Justice team understands the importance of taking rotational breaks



ucalgarycares to us…

5. ucalgary PromoVolunteering at Grow Dat was a highlight of the Service-Learning program! Grow Dat is an example of an urban farm with a unique and successful model. It is supported by grants, CSA’s and volunteer labour and still sells its product for profit! It justifies selling its product because it is also a youth leadership program that employs youth over the summer months. It produces a high-end organic product using innovative sustainable permaculture methods. There is much to be learned about farming techniques and food system issues at this fantastic farm.

-Tina and Martin

Posted in Student Posts | Leave a comment

Final Day Sustainable Cities- WHAT GOES WHERE?

Final Day Sustainable Cities- WHAT GOES WHERE?

By Jacky & Kevonne

Where does your TOILET WATER go?

Today we spent our day at the Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant, exploring the processes involved in the recycling of wastewater. Our wastewater quality is important because our wastewater is the future water input for cities downstream of the Bow River. It is important to be good neighbours.


ucalgarycares students at the Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant

Though pungent smells were present, the tour was very informative. We got to see the steps the City of Calgary takes to remediate the water from the drainage of sinks, toilets, bathtubs, etc., in Calgary. These steps were named in the order of the events that occurred: preliminary, primary, secondary and tertiary. In the preliminary step, the big physical components (bottles, debris and other solids) were removed. The primary step used clarifiers to separate the sludge and fats, oil, greases in big open tanks. The sludge was then treated through anaerobic conditions in bioreactors. The next step was filtration with the use of microorganisms and the pumping of oxygen to remove nutrients in the water. The final step was U.V. disinfection to kill the microorganisms. After these rigorous steps, the water is of a much higher quality and can be released back into the Bow River.


Actually understanding these intensive processes was fascinating. The speaker mentioned how other cities actually dumped raw sewage back into the water bodies, which was astonishing to us. No treatment! Pollution! Definitely not environmentally sustainable! The speaker also mentioned that Calgary received an A+ in the way we treat our wastewater. Not only does our plant treat the wastewater, it also promotes sustainable projects. For instance, methane is a by product of the bioreactor and aids the powering of electricity in the plant (about 70%). Fertilizer is also created and is used in a program called Calgro mandated by the City of Calgary. Furthermore, Enmax just partnered with the Bonnybrook plant to use wastewater as a coolant for their electricity equipment. These projects really showed the steps the City of Calgary was taking to try to be sustainable and really impressed us.


ucalgarycares group selfie at the Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant

How can I help wastewater quality? Don’t flush down the toilet or throw down the sink items such as fats/oil, solid materials, organics, condoms etc. Basically only allow water, toilet paper and poo!

Where does your RECYCLING go?


The recycling mountains at the Materials Recovery Facility

You made an effort to recycle by throwing the correct things into the correct bins but where does your recycling go? They end up at the Materials Recovery Facility which sort and distribute the recycled items. Many of us throw items in the garbage which can be reused, recycled or composted. Items in the landfill do not break down nearly as fast as we think, thus, the landfills are running out of space. In fact, it is estimated that we only have 30 more years of landfill space left in Calgary. WOOOAAAAHHH!!!! What are we going to do? The City has got us covered with a 80/20 by 2020 plan. This means that by 2020 Calgary intends to divert 80% of the waste from the landfill (through recycling, reusing and composting) with only 20% of waste being sent to the landfill.

Recycling in Calgary ends up at the Materials recovery centre but 10-12% is contaminated by us throwing the items into the wrong bins. Soooo…. where does it go?

  • Coffee cups- Normally contains both paper and plastics and cannot be recycled. Some are made out of compostable materials (look for compostable symbols, if it’s not marked throw in garbage)
  • Paper– Recycled in the blue bin
  • Napkins– Compost bin
  • Plastic bags– If it is stretchy or you can put your finger through it, they can be recycled in the blue bin
  • Hard plastics- Look for the recycling triangle symbol if yes, put in blue bin
  • Glass- Blue bin or bottle depot (refund $$)
  • Electronics- E-cyling stations
  • Hazardous– aerosol cans, paint cans, motor oil, nail polish. Drop off at the Throw and go
  • Organics- Compost it (backyard or industrial)
  • Clothes- If it can be reused give to goodwill, homeless shelters, etc.

Also… Recycling is coming to condos and apartments. Composting will be coming to residential homes soon too. YAY!!!

How can I make a difference?





Then RECYCLE if you can’t think of anything better to do with it

End of Sustainable Cities – Things to reflect on:

  • Think before you act
  • Does one individual make a difference?
  • How do you influence change from the outside of an organization?
  • How do you get an entire community to change?
  • If you had to build a new city from scratch how would you start?

Goodbye friends… until the post-service workshop.

Posted in Reading Week 2015 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

ucalgarycares Sustainable Cities Day 3

ucalgarycares Sustainable Cities Day 3

On day three (Thursday) of our Sustainable Cities program, we started off the day by heading to Bowness Park to meet with the City of Calgary’s Parks and Recreation department. The team told us about the BiodiverCity plan to maintain biodiversity inside the parks, and we discussed an unexpected invasive species – beavers. When beaver populations were high, as they are now, there are two ways to reduce their numbers – cull the beavers, or limit the beavers’ food sources. The Parks team prefers to limit the beavers’ food supply, so they taught us how to wrap wire around trees near bodies of water to prevent them from being eaten.


Using a GPS, we mapped out a polygon of the area of the trees we wired.


Wiring trees to protect them from beavers.


Lots of fun!

After we finished with the Parks department, we headed to the Memorial Park Public Library to reflect and eat lunch. After lunch, we walked to the Arusha Centre to meet one of its directors to discuss the building’s function and the Calgary Dollars program. We were given a tour of the Centre, introduced to some of its residents, and then went back to the library to discuss the Calgary Dollars program and eat dinner.

arusha posters

The wall of social justice film posters at Arusha


Listening to Mike from the Arusha Centre, in the Arusha library at CommunityWise


Negotiating…it’s not all about money.

After dinner, we went to Ten Thousand Villages to listen to a presentation on their model of sustainable business. After the presentation, we assisted the Ten Thousand Villages team with inventory, counting some of their food, Christmas decorations, and jewellery.


Posted in Reading Week 2015, Student Posts | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sustainable Cities – Day 2 Blog: Bicycles & Electricity!

Sustainable Cities – Day 2 Blog

By Caitlin & Camilo

We met Shea from Bike Calgary at City Hall, with an exciting project, although very confusing at first. After some clarification, we set off in groups of 2-3 and headed into the downtown streets of our great city to gather data about bike parking. Each group was given a quadrant of about 10 blocks, where we had to record how many bike racks were situated per block, and if these racks had any bikes parked in them. The purpose of the project was to provide accurate data to Bike Calgary, so they can provide an informed study to the municipality to promote city biking. The results of the activity were diverse, with some groups seeing many bike racks, and some not seeing many or any at all. However, the number of actual bikes parked in these racks seemed small for all groups. After an hour and a half of this project, we reunited at City Hall and had a conversation about the prospects of biking in Calgary, and discussed some limitations such as the lack of population density, lack of transit-bike partnership, and unpredictability of the weather.

calgary city hall

Calgary City Hall

bike racks

Nearly empty bike racks near Bow Valley College (editor’s note: I wonder how they’d compare in summer!)

In the afternoon, we went to the AESO (Alberta Electric System Operator) offices, and learned about the wholesale distribution and regulation of electricity in Alberta. There were a number of individuals from the institution presenting on the important factors of AESO, which focused on the conceptual base of electricity, the economic characteristics, the planning procedure, the renewable options, and the storage approaches. We learned that most electricity in the province comes from carbon or fossil resources, which suggests that this type of electricity generation would need to change for a development of a more sustainable electricity industry. One of the most important themes on the presentation were the future prospects, where the province would move away from ‘dirty’ electricity generation, and would also concentrate in efficiency and effectiveness of this generation, as well as of its transportation and consumption. Our hosts emphasized that it is our duty as citizens to regulate and ensure our societal systems, including our electricity that encapsulates all of our activities, and to pursue the cleanest, most responsible for of progress.

caitlin and camilo

Caitlin and Camilo, today’s bloggers, at AESO.




Making mind maps


Linking imagineCALGARY to sustainability and the future of Calgary

Posted in Reading Week 2015, Student Posts | Tagged | Leave a comment