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CU Cares: ‘We let people know they are not alone’

400-plus Concordians have already volunteered for the new community outreach initiative. Here’s how they are making a difference
May 27, 2020
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By Joseph Leger

Lovina Brown For Lovina Brown, a third-year political-science major and student at the Institute of Co-operative Education, volunteering offered the chance to interact with others.

Nothing reveals true character quite like a crisis — and COVID-19 has shown Concordia to be a community that cares very deeply.

First, when the university created an ongoing COVID-19 Emergency Student Relief Fund, Concordians quickly came together to raise more than $1 million (so far) for those in need.

And since Concordia launched CU Cares last month — a collaboration between the Concordia LIVE Centre and University Advancement to recruit volunteer support for elderly alumni and more than 12 Montreal outreach organizations — the response has been heartwarming.

Within a week, more than 300 Concordians had registered with CU Cares, to donate their time, offer their support and make much-needed social connections; that number now stands at more than 400.

“We’ve been so pleased by the community’s reaction to CU Cares,” says Katie Broad, coordinator of Concordia’s LIVE Centre. “So many people have stepped up to help!

“But to be honest, I’m not entirely surprised. We work with community members all the time who are engaged and ready to help 365 days a year.”

CU Cares connects students, alumni, faculty and staff volunteers to community organizations across Montreal, with a special outreach program for elderly Concordia alumni.

As Broad explains, the focus is on virtual volunteering, such as letter writing, wellness calls and food preparation, so that physical distancing measures are respected.

Impressively, 30 per cent of CU Cares’ registrants are Concordia students.

“With everything they are dealing with — the end of term, exams, uncertain summer employment — students are still thinking about what they can do to contribute to our communities,” says Broad.

For Lovina Brown, a third-year political-science major and student at the Institute of Co-operative Education, volunteering offered the chance to interact with others.

Eager to help wherever she can, Brown works two days a week at a CHSLD looking after elderly patients with disabilities and recently earned a co-op placement with C.A.R.E. Jeunesse, a not-for-profit organization that helps foster children transition to independent living as they reach the age of majority.

“Considering what seniors are going through — having to stay inside for their health and well-being, often alone or isolated — I think our role as volunteers is to let them know that they are not alone,” Brown says. “And to let them know that they are in our hearts and thoughts.”

Virginia Gerald Virginia Gerald, receptionist at University Advancement, was one of the first volunteers to register.

One of the first volunteers to register was Virginia Gerald, a receptionist with University Advancement. Like Brown, she signed up to conduct wellness checks by phone with Concordia’s senior alumni population.

“I’ve made more than 60 calls so far,” says Gerald. “Most of the people I’ve spoken to are more than 80 years old, yet they are sharp and doing such a great job of exercising and staying positive. Everyone has been extremely happy and appreciative.”

Brown echoes this sentiment; she says the response has warmed her heart.

“I tell people that I’m calling to make sure they are okay and to see if they have any needs that are not being met,” says Brown. “Everyone I’ve spoken to was over the moon that we had reached out, and that someone cared. The Concordians often reminisce about their alma mater and share stories from their time here — it’s very touching.”

Brown recalls speaking to a gentleman in his 80s who was feeling overwhelmed. Both the man and his wife are diagnosed with significant medical conditions; he was having trouble keeping track of the many phone calls from different doctors’ offices.

“I suggested he keep a pen and paper by the phone, and every time someone calls, to write down the date, time, name of the caller and their reason for calling,” says Brown.

“It was a simple way for him to take back control. He told me ‘You know, Lovina, every time the phone rings, I’m going to think of you.’”

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the well-being of our students — many of whom can no longer afford basic necessities such as rent and groceries. If you can, please consider making a donation.



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