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REF NO.: 52

SUBJECT: Memorial volunteers contribute energy and skills to the community

DATE: Oct. 21

Volunteers have a special kind of power. They commit to something - be it a fund raising project, a charitable organization or a specific cause - and donate their time, energy and skills in support. Their actions make a difference in their communities, and as any volunteer will tell you, the spiritual rewards of volunteering far outweigh the personal investment.

Memorial University is a volunteering hotbed. Students, faculty and staff regularly dig into their scant free time to sit on boards and committees, participate in fund raising events, and lend their special skills to enhance the greater community. And on Wednesday, Oct. 22, potential volunteers at the university can find out which community organizations are most in need of their energies at Memorial's annual Volunteer Fair.

The Volunteer Fair is hosted by the university's Student Volunteer Bureau. This year, it's happening during Celebrate Memorial 2003, from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. on the third floor of the University Centre on the St. John's campus. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Holly White, the event's student coordinator (and also a Planned Parenthood volunteer), said the intent of the Volunteer Fair is to connect off-campus agencies with on-campus volunteers. Some of the agencies setting up booths at the fair this year include local chapters of Big Brothers/Big Sisters; Canadian Blood Services; the SPCA; Students for Literacy; the Association for New Canadians; Scouts Canada; Girl Guides of Canada; the Boys and Girls Club; the Right to Life Association; Planned Parenthood of Newfoundland and Labrador; Community Mediation Services; the Peer Helper Program; the Geo Centre; Walksafe/Safedrive; the Public Legal Association of Newfoundland and Labrador; and the Youth Diversion Program, among others.

Memorial volunteers make notable contributions locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. Dr. Marguerite Mackenzie, head of the Department of Linguistics, sits on the board of the St. John's Native Friendship Centre, a non-profit organization that assists Aboriginal people in everyday needs such as referrals, and counselling on matters of employment, housing, education and health. Graduate student Catharyn Andersen, who is studying linguistics, also sits on the board. Dr. Mackenzie said the Native Friendship Centre's non-profit status means it is always looking for qualified help. "We are especially pleased to have people from Memorial, who know how to write and organize," she said.

Baxter Pope, supervisor of the electronic shop at Memorial's Technical Services division, volunteers with the Candlelighters Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. The organization is a support group for parents of children diagnosed with cancer. As well as helping to raise funds, Mr. Pope and his wife have taken on a special project: for the past five years, they've stocked a special cupboard with food for families staying on the oncology ward of the Janeway. "Many of these people are staying round-the-clock with their children suffering from cancer," he said. "The food cupboard provides them with tea, coffee and snacks, which is especially helpful since the Janeway cafeteria has closed."

Some Technical Services staff also volunteer with the Tetra Society, which recruits skilled volunteer engineers and technicians to create assistive devices for people with disabilities. Russ Callahan, the mechanical manager at Technical Services, said engineers, machinists and welders in the department have modified wheel chairs, bicycles and even constructed a special mobile bed, for various local people with disabilities. Volunteers from Technical Services have also worked the past few years with students from O'Donel High School in Mt. Pearl, to construct entries for the national robotics competition. Mr. Callahan noted that in 2000 Memorial volunteers helped O'Donel students build "Leaf the Lucky", a mechanical hockey player, which took first prize in the competition.

Memorial faculty member Dr. Christopher Youé, head of the Deptartment of History, is a volunteer with the Canadian Association of African Studies. For the past three years Dr. Youé has organized a Books to Africa project through the association, gathering donations to send academic books to universities in Africa. Last year they sent seven boxes of books to the University of The Gambia, through the post office on Memorial's St. John's campus. "The university was very pleased to receive our donation," said Dr. Youe. "Edris Makwaid, the acting vice-chancellor of the University of The Gambia, sent me a thank-you letter to that effect."

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