The third annual Community Engagement Day (CED) was held on Lower Field on October 2, The event encouraged students, staff, and faculty to collaborate with local communities expand and develop ties throughout Montreal. The activities were hosted by McGill’s Office of Social Equity and Diversity (SEDE) however wascompletely student run and organized.
This year CED attracted more than 500 registered participants and partnered with over 45 community projects throughout the city. The activities run through CED all highlight a relationship between the university and community partners, these activities range from public discussions, to workshops, to walking tours.
Organizers hoped that the day would allow McGill to expand its horizons and reach out to the community in ways that affect change. Lina Martin-Chan, the CED Communications Coordinator explained, “McGill is generally perceived as a being a little bit insular, a little bit of a bubble, and of course that perception is not really true, what we hope to achieve is a shift in perception of community culture, and university culture.”
CED is committed to being a resource for the organizations they partner with. “We don’t want to create any extra work for them, Lina explained, “every project that we do, we hope is useful for those organizations.” They celebrate the connections they have previous made, and work hard to maintain those previous established relationships while taking this opportunity to create new connections, and connect with new organizations and community projects.
New organizations CED has paired up with this year include La Maison Benoît Labre, also known as The Benedict Labre House, which is a community centre project for the under-housed in Griffintown. Another project new to CED this year is with Monster Academy, a QPIRG summer stipend project, which works on anti-oppressive mental health campaigns for youth between the ages of 16-25, they ran a workshop on body image for CED.
As well as working with individual student, staff, and faculty form McGill, CED also works on creating projects and connection opportunities between organizations and existing groups on the McGill campus. CED is affiliated with many McGill institutions on campus, both student and otherwise, including SSMU, AUS, McGill Office of the Provost and Student Housing and Hospitality Services. This year Midnight Kitchen, a group that provides free vegan lunches on campus, is working with Maison Benoît Labre to do a cooking workshop. The group helped people at Maison Benoît Labre cook healthy meals for their families using random or sparse ingredients. They also prepared books of recipes for the users to take home with them as a resource.
CED, however, will not be one-time collaboration with these particular organizations. During the group activities, an educational aspect teaches participants not only the issues that the organization is focused on addressing but also how they can be involved in long-term, sustainable way.
Going Beyond Campus
There are many reasons for which people got involved with CED, many because of their own personal experiences and others simply for the joy in bring joy to others. While participating with Volunteers for a Smile, an organization that provides patients with moral support, a student Daniele explained, “The point is to make people smile; I find it very sweet, that is why I do it.”
Khadidja, another student contended, “I have spent a lot of time in hospitals, so I know the feeling and if I can help those people in anyway then I definitely will.”
CED is a great resource for community organizations and students alike. Lina, another student, explained that it is an excellent opportunity for “new students who want to become situated and rooted in the community they are now living in, and to learn about what is going on around them.”
They understand that while being in Montréal is a great opportunity, it can be difficult to feel integrated in the surrounding community. Lina believes that “there are a lot of students looking for and seeking out ways to become connected and feel rooted in the community and this is the perfect opportunity for that.”