New OPIRG Working Groups!

 

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Guided tour in west campus where turtles have new prime space to lay eggs

 

We are thrilled to introduce you to four new OPIRG volunteer “working groups” as they begin their journey to make positive changes in their respective areas of interest:

In alphabetical order:

  • Eco Friendly Mac
  • MacTurtles/Turtle Group
  • McMaster Community Engagement Project
  • McMaster Welcome Group

You can reach all our (now 11) working groups from our volunteer page

GROUP DETAILS

Eco-Friendly Mac

The primary objective of this Working Group is to establish a more accessible and streamlined battery recycling program at McMaster. Battery recycling is not something that busy students prioritize and many throw them in the garbage without realizing that batteries need to be properly disposed of.

The current placements of the battery recycling stations are somewhat hidden from the average student and the numerous battery recycling stations scattered around are very disjointed in their operation. For example, the battery recycling station in the MSU office has not been processed in a year.

We also seek to make the general student body more aware about the notion that batteries need to be properly disposed of as well as the locations of these recycling stations.

MacTurtles

Protection and conservation of turtles and wetlands through awareness and improvement of conservation efforts is what defines our working group.

Habitat fragmentation, climate change, pollution, and hunting are all reasons for the stark decline in turtle populations. Our group believes that a public and scientific understanding of these causes would help protect the declining turtle populations.

The wetlands are critical to biodiversity and human well-being. Our goal is to show the public that turtles are an important part of this ecosystem. Preserving and increasing turtle populations will help the wetlands and preserve a critical species.

We want to do this through connecting labs and groups by creating a conference to promote collaboration and information propagation. We have also created a radio show to build an appreciation for the importance of turtle protection. Designing petitions for reducing speed limits on Cootes and reducing the number turtles a person is allowed to hunt is another way to help.

Lastly, we have a proposal to work with Reyna Matties on having wildlife cameras monitor turtles. Trained volunteers would sift through the pictures helping to extract relevant data to be analyzed. This would give a cursory glance at how effective our conservation efforts are.

McMaster Community Engagement Project

This working group will advocate for students’ interests while raising awareness of ForWard1, the participatory budgeting process used in the City of Hamilton. Since Ward 1 is predominantly a student-inhabited area, it is important that this budgeting process takes the ideas and perspectives of students into consideration.

Throughout the year beginning January 2016, the McMaster Community Engagement (MCE) Project will collect ideas from student groups who are passionate about bringing positive change to the community. These ideas will be further developed by the MCE group with feedback from McMaster staff and submitted at the end of the year to receive ForWard 1 funding.

McMaster Welcome Group

The Syrian conflict has recently been brought close to home, 982 Syrian Refugees have settled in Hamilton this past year, these numbers will increase dramatically before this spring. 14 families, over 100 individuals, have already been placed in McMaster’s immediate community.

These families need support. With very little resources and no ability to speak English, simple activities like grocery shopping are a struggle. More complex tasks such as navigating our health care system for a pregnancy or finding work prove to be impossible alone.

Our group has been working to assist these families in their Canadian transition. We have collected and distributed winter clothing, furnished apartments, booked and translated doctors appointments and taught English lessons. Above all else we have developed strong friendships with these Newcomer Families.

We would like OPIRG’s support in continuing to assist Westdale’s newcomer families  while reaching out regionally and internationally in the midst of this international humanitarian crisis.

 

 

 

Passion to Power: Develop your activist skills with OPIRG McMaster

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There are basic things that are helpful to know when looking to engage with important issues, and our goal is to build capacity for students to become effective advocates.

It could be designing a poster, to sitting with a city councilor to talk about important issues, learning about Consensus Decision Making, or Anti-Racism.

Full workshop descriptions here: http://bit.ly/P2PWorkshopDescriptions
Register for individual Workshops here: http://bit.ly/OPIRGpassiontopower

Let us know if there are other workshops you would be interested in!

Community Volunteer Action

KRISTY YIU, COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER ACTION

I have been involved with OPIRG McMaster’s Community Volunteer Action Working Group since my first year of undergrad, which would make this my fifth year of volunteering with this amazing McMaster group. I have always been involved in volunteering to some capacity within my home community since high school, so joining CVA in first year seemed like a natural progression.
One of the things that sets CVA apart from any other volunteer placement is our emphasis on reflecting after each volunteer session. We believe that setting aside 15 minutes to discuss concerns that arose or reflecting on our experience through a variety of media — from acting to drawing — will help students form a stronger bond both with their peers and the community that they are serving. This long-standing relationship between CVA and many of its community partners can also be attributed to the stress we place on long-term commitments. We understand that our community partners rely on us heavily in order to deliver their services to those in need so we expect our volunteers to be able to commit to every session for a full term. Not only will this consistency ensure that programs will be able to run smoothly with the help of our well-trained volunteers, our students will also get the opportunity to form more meaningful bonds with the individuals we serve.

CVA is a great place to take your first step and help you see behind the stigma of downtown being a “sketchy” place.

Community is clearly a very important part of CVA, given its name, and we try to encompass various communities in this experience – from student community to the greater Hamilton community. Many students don’t get involved/explore the latter until they are well into their second, third, or fourth year at McMaster. This is understandable because the McMaster campus,

aptly named the “McMaster bubble”, is so well equipped that students can have all their needs met without ever having to leave. But by no means should this be an excuse for students to stay cooped up on campus! Hamilton is diverse city hub that can cater to the interests of all people with its vibrant art scene to its gorgeous sceneries that live up to its name of being the “City of Waterfalls”. That being said, it can be intimidating, especially for first-year students, to venture out into downtown. CVA is a great place to take your first step and help you see behind the stigma of downtown being a “sketchy” place. By taking the bus as a group to and from the placement, students can get more comfortable with travelling on the HSR. And as well, through volunteering with the various populations that reside in the downtown area, we can understand more about these inhabitants and lessen the fear of downtown through familiarity.
With the wide array of placements, students are bound to find one that suits both their interests and their hectic timetables! Placement times range from the early hours in the morning for the daily Dr. Davey’s breakfast program to late afternoon shifts at the women’s shelter. The term-long commitments allow students to switch up their placements to get a different taste of everything (or continue at the same placement if you love it that much!) as soon as the term is over.
Leadership opportunities within CVA are endless, because we strive to provide so much more than just a volunteering organization. We value the experience and perspective that a student brings, and created facilitator roles for more experienced volunteers to lead discussions and act as liaison between CVA and the placement agency. This role allows facilitators to use their experience to guide new volunteers into their new positions, while providing them with an optimal position to give feedback and suggestions to CVA regarding placements, reflection exercises, etc. For many students, this may be their first leadership position, therefore CVA has arranged biweekly Creativity Reflection Activity Facilitator Team (CRAFT) meetings to ease them into this role. CRAFT meetings provide opportunities for facilitators to discuss common concerns or problems that typically arise in groups, to explore various themes that may be useful in volunteering sessions, and simply a time for facilitators to reflect on their own experiences. When you are a seasoned facilitator (given that you facilitated for a year or more), you may even apply to become a mentor motivator. This is a role that allows you to mentor a newer facilitator and provide them with one-on-one support. And of course, these mentors need their source of support as well so this gap has been filled by the monthly mentor-motivator meetings, where they plays a similar role to CRAFT meetings but put an emphasis on topics surrounding mentorship.
Overall, CVA is an amazing opportunity for any students who want to give back to the community while learning more about the surrounding Hamilton area. We host a volunteer fair in the beginning of each term to recruit new volunteers so feel free to come check it out! Fear not if you missed the fair, our website is also updated on a frequent basis to let you sign up for any volunteering opportunities still available.