Karishma Vaz, a fourth-year aerospace engineering student, writes about making a positive impact through her experience as a Team Leader for Carleton Serves, a volunteer day organized by the SEO.

Two years ago, I participated in Carleton Serves and had the opportunity to give back to the Ottawa community by planting trees along the Rideau River Nature Trail. This was the first of my many community service-learning adventures organized by Carleton that made me realize my passion for volunteering. This year, I had the privilege of being a Team Leader for Carleton Serves, and I must say that I had a great experience.

For those of you that don’t know what Carleton Serves is, it is a one day volunteering opportunity, organized by the SEO, where Carleton students go out into the community and serve in over 15 local organizations.

This year, Carleton Serves took place on September 29th. The day started off with a speech by our lovely President and vice-chancellor, Dr. Runte, followed by a very inspiring speech by a fourth-year journalism student, Iman Azman. She shared a little bit about herself and her involvement at Carleton and urged all the participants to find something they were passionate about and help out with it. After that, each team headed out to their respective organizations.

My organization this year was the SLOE Children’s Garden. I especially love this place because its colorful fence always makes my day whenever I pass by it. My role as a Team Leader was quite simple. I had to make sure that I knew how to get there, that my team was having a good time, and I carried out the reflection at the end of the day. Everything else had been taken care of by the SEO.

My team had five amazing members. We all got along quite well and the long waits for the buses didn’t seem so bad. When we got to the Children’s Garden we were greeted by two lovely women. One of them was the coordinator and the other was a parent volunteer who had brought her little son along to help out.

For the couple of hours that we were there, we had a wide variety of tasks. We assisted in cleaning up and preparing for their Potluck Harvest Party. Some of the team members helped restructure the grass bed, paint some areas of the garden, and rake fallen leaves. We also helped clear the plant beds in order to prepare them for the new growing season. However, I think my favourite task of the day was tomato-picking. We essentially picked the unripe tomatoes off the plants around the garden. These unripe tomatoes were going to be used to make tomato chutney for the Harvest Party.

While we were there, a few parents brought their children into the garden to play. My highlight of the day was when these little children grabbed mini-rakes and mini-wheel barrows and started collecting the fallen leaves. It was so refreshing to see them get involved in the process and enjoy themselves at the same time.

The day ended with a meaningful reflection by the group. As a group we were able to see the purpose of the Children’s Garden and its intention to help children make connections with nature in a fun and comfortable setting. This made all the effort we had put in that much more worth it.

Now, would I recommend this experience to other students? Without a doubt, YES! This experience not only helps you gain valuable leadership skills but also raises awareness about the issues in the community and how they are being addressed by these organizations. Although Carleton Serves only happens once a year, there are many other opportunities to get involved. The SEO organizes multiple ‘Days of Service’ throughout the year, so be sure to check them out.

These community service-learning opportunities through the SEO not only helped me sharpen my leadership skills but also helped me establish a sense of belonging within the Carleton and Ottawa community. Above all, it helped me realize my passion for volunteering and giving back to my community. On a final note, all I would like to say is GET INVOLVED! You never know what you might discover about yourself along the way.

Oh, and before I forget, you can add this to your CCR!

Submitted by Karishma Vaz, a fourth-year aerospace engineering student.

Learn more about Community Service-Learning at carleton.ca/csl


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