May 18, 2023

Volunteers come together as good neighbours to participate in community cleanup

Students and staff help out after celebrations on the last day of university classes
Group of student volunteers standing together in a neighbouring community, wearing high-visibility vests and holding garbage bags.
Ana Pazmino

After a long and often-cold winter semester, the last day of classes is always a much-anticipated milestone for nearly everyone at the University of Calgary. Several events gave students the chance to celebrate the end of the term, and they weren’t all confined to campus, with some spilling into the surrounding neighbourhoods.

That’s why UCalgary’s Community Engagement team partnered with Student Enrolment Services and Caretaking staff to organize a community cleanup initiative to thank our neighbours for hosting our students on the last day of classes. A group of approximately 50 people, including caretakers, student and staff volunteers, gathered and canvassed the adjacent University Heights neighbourhood on April 13, picking up litter and waste.

“The last day of classes can be a time of celebration for our students who have worked hard all year,” says Amanda Affonso, BA’00, associate vice-president of alumni, community and partnerships. “However, it’s deeply important to us to be a good neighbour to our surrounding community. This community cleanup was an opportunity to show our neighbours that we’re there for them and that we care.”

Caring for the community

Caretakers work tirelessly, day in and day out, to help ensure UCalgary can continue to do what great research institutions are meant to do: improve the lives of those who live in the community and beyond. “The goal was to be good neighbours and strengthen the relationship with community,” says Caretaking Manager Mohamed Abdulaziz, BA’05.

This wasn’t the first community cleanup for caretaking staff — in previous years, they have arranged several cleanups to help ensure the university’s surrounding neighbourhoods remain tidy.

“The community cleanup is one way we come together and offer some of our time to keep our community clean and welcoming for everyone,” says Melody Aowes, who has been a caretaker at UCalgary for seven years. “It’s very rewarding knowing you are part of the success of the students studying here. Even if it doesn’t show, you are part of their success; you are a part of their health, you contributed to the time they stayed here.”

Making connections

Student volunteers found the cleanup initiative to be another valuable opportunity to make connections with their peers and in the community. Members of the caretaking team provided them with all the supplies they needed, along with basic training on how to identify and deal with any hazardous material they might encounter.

“It was wonderful to work with student volunteers and see their dedication in supporting the community, especially after the last day of classes, when many students are focused on wrapping up the semester and studying for finals,” says Isabel Fandino, BA’18, MA’21. an adviser in the Student Conduct Office.

“Even with all these competing demands, we had an amazing turnout with volunteers sticking around after all the garbage had been collected, to chat with one another, exchange phone numbers and social media handles.”

Fandino hopes those who participated will continue to engage with one another and see the difference they can make in our campus community. “It's fantastic to see how UCalgary initiatives can go beyond the campus and reach a wider group, fostering a sense of belonging, of shared responsibility, and care,” she says.