Bringing a helping hand to the community
By Ben Fraser
February 27, 2014
Swinging a hammer, cutting lumber and giving out gifts are probably not the typical business school activities. But for Ivey Business School students volunteering in the Ivey Connects program, those activities – and more – are an important part of their university experience.
“What Ivey Connects is trying to do is train emerging leaders, with a social responsibility aspect in mind, to hopefully be able to maintain a positive attitude throughout their career about giving back to the community. It's kind of a ‘pay it forward’ thing,” said Abby Leung, Ivey Connects external director.
Ivey Connects is the philanthropic and community outreach arm of the business school. It is student run, with all first-year business students – students in their third year of undergraduate study, but first year in business school – and some second-year students taking part.
One of the group’s Ivey Connects partners with is Habitat for Humanity Oxford-Middlesex-Elgin.
Habitat has partnered with Ivey Connects since 2005, through both the Community Consulting Project and the Impact Challenge.
Jeff Duncan, the local Habitat’s chief executive officer, praised the fundraising and awareness-building skills of the Ivey students. “There's just such a natural affinity from the group of people that joined that program,” he said.
Some of the Ivey Connects students also help Habitat build houses in the London area and run the Habitat ReStore, a store selling used household goods and furniture. In the past, Ivey students also took on an entire build, from fundraising through construction, of a house on Smith Street.
It's through working with groups like Habitat for Humanity and Ivey Connects that Leung hopes Ivey students will emerge from the ‘Western bubble’ and become more engaged with the wider London community.
Last fall, Ivey Connects maintained its tradition of hosting a holiday party for less fortunate children in London. This involves Ivey students making crafts with the kids and culminates with each child getting a gift.
“The smiles on kids’ faces at the end of the day, especially when they get the gifts that they might not have gotten otherwise, is always something that stuck out to me,” Leung said.
Other than the holiday party, there are two main programs Ivey Connects uses to engage the community.
One is the Community Consulting Project, which involves groups of four Ivey students working with a non-profit organization to help with problems or issues specific to that organization.
The second is the Impact Challenge, pairing all first-year Ivey students with a community organization in London mostly working on fundraising and building awareness of the organization in the community. The partner organizations are chosen from a pool of applicants and selected on a needs basis.
This year, eight community organizations, including Habitat, will work with the eight first-year student sections, and one additional organization working with some second-year students.
One of these second-year Ivey students is Leung, a native of Vancouver, in her fourth year at Western, majoring in Business and Geology. As external director of Ivey Connects, she is responsible for managing the relationship between Ivey Connects and their community partners.
Last year, Leung worked with Single Women in Motherhood, an organization that offers support to single mothers and their families, to help them devise a three-to-five year strategic plan as part of the community consulting project.
Apart from the benefit to the community, Leung has also taken away a lot of great memories from her work with Ivey Connects.
“I think the greatest accomplishment is seeing the impact you've made,” she said. “I want to leave this role feeling I’ve made a difference in the London community and to have a positive impact by changing how Ivey and Western students react to volunteering.
“It’s not just a school thing, but something that everyone should be focused on.”
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