The benefits of volunteering
He’s only 23, but U of T grad Craig Kielburger has already devoted half his life to helping children in developing countries escape poverty and exploitation. Earlier this year, Kielburger won a John H. Moss Scholarship, one of the highest awards U of T bestows on a graduating student, and he was invited to speak at the annual meeting of the University of Toronto Alumni Association (UTAA).
In his speech, Kielburger challenged U of T to become the first post-secondary institution in Canada to require students to perform community service to receive their degree. Kielburger wants each student to provide 100 hours of service over four years. He sees this not only as a way for students to contribute to the world around them, but also to grow as citizens. “My greatest memories [of U of T] are not only of the professors and the classes,” he told UTAA members, “but also the volunteer time I spent with students – nurturing not only our minds but also our hearts, our souls and who we are as humans in service to our community, our nation and our world.”
A few days after Kielburger’s speech in September, some 2,000 U of T students, staff and faculty fanned out across the city to volunteer for a day – doing everything from running a Special Olympics soccer tournament to collecting garbage from riverbanks. The Day of Service allowed U of T community members an opportunity to see first-hand how their academic goals can fit into larger principles of community service and civic engagement. The university plans to repeat the event annually.
In this issue, we list the names of people and organizations – as we do each year – who have made major financial contributions to the university. But this year, we also pay tribute to alumni who have donated a large chunk of time to their alma mater. The alumni profiled here are all winners of Arbor Awards, which recognize volunteers for outstanding personal service to the university over a number of years.
U of T professors also volunteer their time; many are called upon to provide opinions to the media, as well as advise on matters of municipal, provincial and national policy. In this issue, University Professor Janice Gross Stein contributes an essay on the thorny issue of religious and equality rights, and the difficulties that arise when they come into conflict with each other. Professors are also involved with the City of Toronto in devising better ways of handling the municipality’s growing trash problems.
Many religions value volunteer work, believing, as Kielburger does, that it nurtures the soul. Writer Allen Abel takes a look at the state of the U of T student’s soul in a story that illuminates the role religion plays on campus. Although it is a strictly secular institution, U of T acknowledges the importance of spirituality in students’ lives and will open a new MultiFaith Centre early next year – in part to foster greater understanding among all faiths.
A reminder: if you feel inspired to write, please enter our Alumni Short Story and Poetry Contest. Send us a previously unpublished story or poem by March 1, 2007, and you could win $1,000 and publication in our summer issue.