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Foundation of giving

Celebrating 40 years of student volunteerism at Memorial University

Student Life

By Lisa Pendergast

It’s the season for giving, but did you know there is a place at Memorial University where you can go year-round to give back to the community?

The Student Volunteer Bureau (SVB) is a student-led resource that recently celebrated 40 years of getting students involved in volunteerism, personal and professional development and leadership opportunities.

A brown man with a beard and glasses speaks at a podium.
Arman Hossain is a business student and the co-ordinator of the Student Volunteer Bureau.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Arman Hossain is a student from Bangladesh who is studying business at Memorial.

He is the co-ordinator of the SVB, leading a team of volunteer assistants to teach students about volunteerism and co-ordinating volunteer placements with community partners.

“For me, volunteering is about giving back to the community, but it has also given back to me.” — Arman Hossain

Joining the SVB helped Mr. Hossain find his place at Memorial, he says.

“For me, volunteering is about giving back to the community, but it has also given back to me,” he said. “When I arrived, I knew no one and struggled to find connections being almost 11,000 kilometres away from home. Volunteering provided that sense of belonging that made me fall in love with both Newfoundland and Memorial.”

Volunteerism and student services at Memorial have also led Mr. Hossain to work experience and leadership roles.

“My first job ever was as an airport greeter for new international students, and that progressed to a MUCEP position with the Internationalization Office. I served as a part-time student representative on the MUNSU board for the 2019-20 term and contributed to various clubs and societies. As a student leader with Student Life, I represent Memorial at events and assist in designing Welcome Weeks for incoming students.”

Real-life skills

Kelly White, a white woman in her early 50s, in a selfie with plants in the background.
Kelly White
Photo: Submitted

Kelly White is known in the Newfoundland and Labrador community sector for making positive change.

She’s held the roles of executive director of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities and Habitat for Humanity and managed a major fundraising campaign for the Canadian Cancer Society.

She gained a foundation of leadership when she joined the SVB in the fall of 1988, volunteering for student orientation.

“I learned so much from my time at SVB,” Ms. White said. “How to be a leader, time management, communications skills, skills that I value every day in my work life. I learned how to be a team player, which now shows up as committee management skills, how to handle conflict and mostly understanding empathy and acceptance of others.”

In addition to preparing her for a meaningful career, Ms. White has many fond memories of her time at the SVB.

“We always had fun times while contributing to great causes,” she recalled. “My time with the Children’s Miracle Network, Big Brother Big Sisters bowl-a-thons and my all-time favourite was orientation. Many of my lifelong friends come from my volunteer days at Memorial. I’ve cherished them for more than 30 years now.”

A winning partnership

Opening the Student Volunteer Bureau in 1983. From left Dr. JD Eaton, Dr. Donna Hardy Cox, Ed Buckingham.
Photo: Submitted

In November 1982 the Department of Student Affairs and Services, in partnership with the Volunteer Centre of the Community Sector Council, announced a grant of $500 to develop a Student Volunteer Bureau at Memorial.

The SVB student representative and former vice-president (internal) of the Council of the Student Union at that time was Dr. Donna Hardy Cox, Memorial’s current associate vice-president (academic) and dean of students.

“I led the assessment of student volunteer needs and opportunities on campus before the Student Volunteer Bureau officially opened in January 1983,” said Dr. Hardy Cox. “What a tremendous learning opportunity I had as the inaugural SVB volunteer co-ordinator. I have reflected on this experience many times.”

Dr. Hardy Cox credits collaboration between the students’ union, the Department of Student Affairs and Services and the Community Sector Council for the sustained success of the SVB.

“There were faculty members who believed in an out-of-the-box learning experience, senior leaders who said yes to the idea, our community and a fantastic team of students, all working towards the same goal. This is a relationship that has stood the test of time.”

There have been a lot of changes in 40 years, but volunteerism has been, and remains, fundamental to students’ experiential learning and the support of their communities.

The future of giving

At an anniversary celebration in November, there was an exciting announcement.

A new Student Volunteer Bureau Volunteer of the Year Award has been established in partnership with MUNSU, Student Life and the Office of Development.

The annual award is worth $500 and will be presented to a student who demonstrates long-term commitment to volunteerism, personal or professional growth through their altruism and who makes outstanding contributions to Memorial’s community, their province or beyond.

From left to right are Paul Pike, minister, Children, Seniors and Social Development; Colin Corcoran, CEO, Community Sector Council of N.L.; Dr. Donna Hardy Cox; John Harris, director, external affairs, MUNSU; and Arman Hossain.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Memorial’s partner, the Community Sector Council, announced it will match the original $500 grant, raising the total to $1,000 – continuing its strong support of Memorial University’s students and their volunteer efforts.

To learn more and to add your support to the Student Volunteer Bureau at Memorial, visit here.

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