Struggling London families will soon receive 1,000 care packages from Western students aiming to share a little love with their community.
The hygiene-and-literacy kits were delivered to five neighbourhood resource centres on Wednesday as part of a partnership among Western, University Students’ Council (USC) and London’s Child & Youth Network (CYN).
The kits include toiletry essentials such as toothbrushes and soap, as well as sidewalk chalk, crayons and activity sheets for kids.
Practising physical distancing protocols, about 50 students packaged the kits outdoors as part of OServes activities during an Orientation Week that was mostly virtual this year. The CYN donated $10,000 to buy the items.
OServes connects Western student volunteers with community needs. About 1,000 students participated this year, said Kate Placide, global experiential learning co-ordinator with Western’s student experience portfolio.
“It’s an opportunity for students to have an introduction to a community program or initiative they might have some interest in, and get a broader understanding of what families go through in London, particularly those with low incomes,” said Placide.
Use of the South London and Northwest London resource centres has tripled since the pandemic hit, with 13,000 individuals having received items from their emergency food cupboard since March, said Pascale Cantin, manager of neighbourhood support services at the South London resource centre and manager of the emergency food cupboard at both north and south centres.
The kits will be dispersed to families who participate in the centre’s programs – including seniors’ settlement and child programs – and will augment the offerings of its emergency food cupboard.
She said some visitors to the centre have said they’ve run out of soap and are using hand sanitizer instead, or are staying home because they can’t afford deodorant or toothpaste.
“It may look like a hygiene kit but it can be life-changing,” Cantin said.
The need for basic items has never been greater, said Alexis Kampman, who works with the city’s policy, neighbourhood, children and fire services department.
“We have been so impressed by the leadership, the energy, and the community spirit of these students, who came to us with this wonderful initiative to deliver basic needs kits. These kinds of innovative collaborations are great opportunities to connect students with community and create real impacts that make a difference in the lives of Londoners.”
Volunteering virtually connects students to London, September 2020
Bringing student service to the community, September 2018