Last Thursday, the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE) held its third annual Community Engagement Day (CED). Around 45 organizations with 54 projects were present at the event, which drew about 550 attendees.
According to Lina Martin-Chan, CED’s communications coordinator, the event aims to bridge the community-campus divide and provide students with the resources to create lasting relationships with community organizations.
“One of the goals of CED is thinking about how this school exists in the city and how we all participate in the school and our communities and to debunk this myth of McGill as a bubble,” Martin-Chan said.
Although many of the activities were only open to McGill students, faculty, or staff, public talks were held throughout the day at the Y-intersection. One talk featured a panel discussion of speakers from the Quebec Community Groups Network and a speaker from McGill’s own Career Planning Service.
The panel discussed career opportunities in the community-action sector and hoped to demystify jobs that focus on community support. Students who attended the event saw it as a good introduction to the potential for working in community organizations.
“I’ve always been interested in Non-Governmental Organizations, but I’m studying history so it wasn’t something I was thinking of specifically,” said Mab Coates-Davies, a third-year student at Concordia University. “I think it’s important to be looking into.”
New to CED this year is SEDE’s collaboration with The Yellow Door, a Montreal community organization that aims to provide services for the elderly population while fostering youth involvement in their activities.
“CED aims […] to integrate McGill students into the normal, day-to-day operations of the organizations,” Sunny Sun, project facilitator for The Yellow Door, said.
Sun also stressed the importance of creating long-term relationships between students and the community.
“It isn’t meant to be a day of activism, where participants can go home and feel like they did a good deed, and then never think about it again,” Sun said. “We want to start a dialogue between the student participants and the community organizations. We want students to think about the social forces that created the social issues that these community organizations are trying to address.”
Another group present at CED was Cactus Montreal, a local group that works with drug abusers, sex workers, and transgendered people. Cactus Montreal coordinates two syringe clean-ups each year. This year, their syringe clean up corresponded with CED and volunteers learned how to safely dispose of needles while learning about the organization itself.
In its third year, CED has continued to grow and evolve, according to CED Program Coordinator Adam Finley.
“This year, instead of trying to boost the number of people [attending], we focused a lot on […] making the activities not only a good introduction to these organizations but [making sure] that what people are actually doing is useful,” Finley said. “The first year, there were 23 activities for about 200 people. Last year, there were about 40 activities for about 600 people. We found actually that that was enough because it’s quite a bit of work to organize that stuff.”
Finley added that the response to CED has been positive.
“We’re really happy with how this year has turned out,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work but we’re super happy with the direction the project has taken over the past few years.”