For many university students each year, Reading Week is a welcome interlude.
It’s a time to catch up on lecture notes or assignments, see old friends, or simply veg out at home. Some opt for ski trips and others head south to vacation hot spots, to get away from it all.
But for many UBCO students, reading week—running Feb. 17 to 21—is a chance to get involved in community initiatives, collaborating with both the young and the old, and in some cases, the four-legged kind.
Nishat Tasnim, an international student from Bangladesh who lives on the UBC Okanagan campus, is one of many students participating in the Days of Caring Community Service Learning program this week. She’s volunteering at Kelowna’s SPCA—helping to build condos for the shelter’s adoptable cats.
“I was thrilled when I was asked to participate at the SPCA,” said Tasnim. “I have always wanted to volunteer there but could not fit it into my schedule. And I do love cats. We’ve had 11 cats at one point in our house. It was a bit crazy, but we loved our pets. I’ve missed having pets around since coming to university.”
This is Tasnim’s third year volunteering during reading week and she says her volunteer experiences have helped her learn how to paint large walls, help at registration booths, ask for donations, prepare food, organize inventory, and mentor middle school students.
She’s thrilled to be able to find some spare time to help out the community around her, and while it may sound corny, she openly admits, giving her time to help others is simple payback for the great things going on in her own life.
“I volunteer to fill my heart with joy and hear stories, and feel inspired by all the good things that are taking place in our community,” she added. “Reading break projects make me very happy and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Phil Bond, community service learning program manager at UBC Okanagan, says the popularity of the program has grown phenomenally in three years and he’s happy to help match students with volunteer opportunities. When Days of Caring Reading Week started three years ago, they had a hard time filling the volunteer positions. This year, students are on a waiting list.
“Our students are hungry for opportunities to engage with the community, but also to connect with each other,” said Bond. “Volunteering during Days of Caring provides so many benefits for the students, whether it’s learning how to work as a team, or leading a project for the first time.”