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Students volunteer in Harmony House initiative

The Harmony House women’s shelter will be receiving some handmade gifts courtesy of 10 Algonquin students who participated in a volunteer event in the AC Hub on Nov. 13.

Gathered around a table on the second floor, the student volunteers joined in this on-campus community project to make jewellery and write inspirational cards that will be delivered to women and children at the shelter who have suffered abuse.

As a second-stage shelter, Harmony House provides a transitional period between crisis shelter services and living comfortably and reintegrating into the community. According to their website, they have been providing safe shelter and support for abused women and children since 1987.

They rely heavily on the support of the community, making them a perfect organization for an on-campus project of this nature.

Volunteer efforts like this aren’t a new concept to Algonquin. In fact, opportunities arise at least once a week during the fall and winter terms and once a month during the spring and summer.

According to Rebecca Sun, the co-curricular record and volunteerism coordinator at the college, the Harmony House project and other projects on campus are a great way for students to engage with their community and understand the various resources and non-profit organizations available to them in the city.

“It’s a passive way of volunteering, if you will,” she said. “They aren’t going directly into the community but it’s something that is very personal and it’s something that has meaning.”

Algonquin’s community projects vary in size depending on organization needs. Some students are required to fill volunteer hours for their program, but according to Sun, a lot of students go above and beyond what is required of them.

Mike Kahil, a second-semester police foundations student, has been volunteering with the college since January. From the Ottawa Food Bank to the Dunrobin tornado relief efforts, he has had a well-rounded experience.

At this popup, he participated by writing inspirational notes designed for women and children who have experienced assault. In his view, this volunteer event was crucial to bring awareness to violence against women.

“I think it’s important because it’s something that has only recently been talked about,” Kahil said. “I think it was stigmatized in some ways in the past and society is starting to realize that there are a lot of women out there who are experiencing hardship.”

Penny Reed, a first-year social service worker student, participated by making bracelets and necklaces for the shelter residents.

This was her second time volunteering in a community project but compared to the last one where she was involved with more administrative tasks, this one felt more hands-on and it allowed for creativity to flow.

According to her, volunteering in this way is an amazing opportunity to acknowledge the hardships that others might be facing. It also allows for someone to put themselves in the shoes of a woman who might be trying to leave a violent situation.

“No one wants to be put in a situation where they have to flee violence,” Reed said. “Sometimes those women lose everything and it’s easy for them to feel down.”

In order to bring a positive light into the lives of those who have lost everything, Reed plans to continue volunteering in the future.

“Love from the community, in whichever form it comes or looks, makes a difference and can brighten someone’s day.”

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