One person can make a difference: Volunteering

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dana Mackie, Promotional Assistant and Tour Guide at the CMHR (and University of Winnipeg student), talks to us about her recent experience volunteering with a local community group. Here’s what she had to say:

On Friday July 27th, I worked in the University of Winnipeg Student Association (UWSA) garden in the morning and with the UWSA Food Bank in the afternoon as part of a volunteer opportunity.  I decided to volunteer because I like to be involved in my community and I wanted to try volunteering somewhere I hadn't before to experience something new!

It occurred to me that the Food Bank and the Garden fit in perfectly with two emerging human rights issues: the right to a healthy environment and the right to food.

The circle garden contains plants that have medicinal uses and are traditionally used in some Aboriginal cultures. There are also spaces in the garden with vegetables and herbs that are free for anyone to use. Talk about free access to healthy and affordable food!

With the UWSA food bank, I helped prepare approximately 50 family boxes and 20 individual boxes of food. The UWSA Food bank is meant for community members and students alike, but at this point in time only community members are using it, likely because of the stigma attached to receiving food from a food bank. I asked the Food Bank coordinators how they were going to try and break through that stigma to better serve their whole targeted demographic, and the response I got was: “well, we’re going to put more posters up about it around the university.” Free, healthy food is available but students in need are not using it!

Volunteering with both the garden and the food bank showed me that there are people who are working hard to make healthy food accessible to those who need it.  It also showed me how people are using space at the University of Winnipeg to create a healthy environment that wouldn't be there without their hard work and dedication.

It was a fulfilling day full of learning and I felt as though it was directly related to my interests and to my job; I gained great conversation-starters with future tour participants, for sure!


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