In this together Series: Lifting Spirits through Service
By: Hallie Rodney, BHSc (Honours) Class of 2022
Throughout my discussions with Health Sciences students at various levels, it has become clear that volunteering is at the core of the BHSc program. We discussed volunteer experiences they have been involved with throughout the pandemic – aiding those who were both directly and indirectly impacted during this time.
Mitch German is a third year Health Sciences student who founded Delivery Dudes over the summer. This organization delivered groceries to immunocompromised and elderly populations. Mitch was inspired to start this organization when he noticed that there were other similar initiatives in other regions but there was not one in Hamilton at the time. The organization used Facebook as a platform to inform the public and the initiative garnered attention from the community allowing at-risk individuals to receive groceries in a safe way.
Mitch also volunteers with Spark as the Sessions Coordinator. Spark is an MSU club that plays a large role in helping first years navigate the often complex transition to university. This year, Spark has adapted the themes of different sessions to suit an online learning environment. Some sessions included: academic advice and tips for transitioning, social awareness as well as goal setting and reflection.
Vaibhav Arora is a first year Health Sciences student who lives in Kolkata, India. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the schools in his community were transitioning into an online setting. Vaibhav found that many underfunded schools were struggling to establish a stable way to implement online learning for its students. This caused him to begin volunteering at a local non-profit called Ek Tara that helps connect groups of students to virtual tutors. This organization also makes a conscious effort to hire women who are from disadvantaged communities, where Vaibhav has helped teach them how to better navigate computers and different technologies.
During this challenging time, a fourth year Health Sciences student named Megan Lowe has given back in more ways than one. She has been working as a volunteer cook for Toronto All Saints Church, preparing 10 pounds of potatoes and 10 dozen boiled eggs each week. She also volunteers her time with The Pulse, the McMaster on-campus gym. She has been teaching Zoom workout classes to help individuals stay motivated to move and mentally strong. Moving your body can have profound effects on an individual’s mental as well as physical health, two aspects of ourselves that we must take care of during this unprecedented time.
I was also able to speak with another third year Health Sciences student, Arani Kulamurugan who volunteers her time teaching South Indian classical/Carnatic music over Zoom. She was passionate about this volunteer position because it allowed her to keep children in the community engaged in their culture and also “take care of their mental health through music”. She believes that music is a powerful tool to help individuals feel heard and manage a difficult and uncertain time.
Sabrina Sefton is a first year Health Sciences student who joined the PowerUp Mentorship Program. This program pairs high school students with university students who are pursuing a similar field of study. Most students that Sabrina interact with come to her with anxieties about the application process and questions about certain programs. This mentorship program helps to overcome many virtual limitations that are present right now by connecting students and aiding them in building a personalized and meaningful relationship. Sabrina remembers that when she was in grade 12, “going on campus tours and having in-person discussion[s]” was an important part of the process of selecting a school and program. Sabrina is very proud of the support, clarity and comfort she is able to provide these students during a very challenging and overwhelming time, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.