The university is a hive of activity, and students and staff at the University of Manitoba seem particularly generous in their time and finances. Amongst the various student groups, unions, faculties, and departments on campus there are dozens—perhaps hundreds—of charitable projects and efforts worthy of profiling. This article looks at only a few of the most notable efforts championed by students.
University of Manitoba Students’ Union
The University of Manitoba Students’ Union is the main representative body of students at the U of M. As such, it takes an active role in spearheading charitable initiatives supported by U of M students. It provides funding to some charitable student groups, contributes financially to key causes important to students, and manages its own charitable projects such as the holiday hamper.
Local student groups are given support through space, access to tables during orientation, and occasional funding from UMSU for special events. Several of these groups have charitable mandates and are affiliated with national or international charities and non-profits. The groups include Let’s Talk Science, Active Minds at University of Manitoba, MEFLIFE Manitoba, the University of Manitoba group for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council, the Justice for Women Student Group, and University of Manitoba Operation Smile, among others.
The holiday hamper program has been run by the students’ union for over 10 years. The program is meant to help students in need over the holidays. Students in need are able to confidentially sign up to receive a hamper through UMSU while student groups, faculty councils, associations, and faculties participate in the program through the “Adopt-A-Hamper” initiative, in which they help collect and deliver goods.
This year, UMSU was able to distribute over 200 holiday hampers to the families of students in need. Rebecca Kunzman, UMSU vice-president advocacy, said that the union had doubled the capacity of the holiday hamper program compared to last year.
The students’ union also runs an annual toy drive. The toys are collected by donation in University Centre and go to the children of students receiving hampers.
Kunzman started work on the union’s hamper program in early November, but emphasized the contributions of other students in the success of the program this year.
“This program would not be possible without the help of our volunteers and the generous donations of all the student groups, faculty councils and associations, offices, and individuals who participated.
“The three-day block over which the program really comes together is an intensive one. This year was an amazing success due to the number of great volunteers who came out and helped us on the packaging, wrapping, and especially delivery days.”
University of Manitoba Athletic Council
The University of Manitoba Athletic Council (UMAC) is a student group made up of student athletes who play for the Bisons.
Jessica Rosenbaum, UMAC volunteer coordinator and athlete with the Bisons’ women’s hockey team, told the Manitoban UMAC’s purpose is to provide a venue for “community outreach; social planning; to provide a forum for discussion for all athletic-related issues; to regulate all other unified activities done by varsity athletes; and to be the voice of all student athletes on behalf of Bison Sports.”
But on top of all of its other roles, UMAC is particularly active in its charity efforts.
This year was UMAC’s 10th year volunteering at Siloam Mission over the holidays. The volunteers—who included athletes from track and field, swimming, basketball, soccer, hockey, volleyball, and golf—worked in Siloam’s kitchen and drop-in centre, and sorted donations.
The Bison swimming team also donated over $500 to Siloam Mission after raising money with sales of event programs at their 2014 Bison Sprint meet.
The University of Manitoba Athletic Council’s partnership with Siloam started when Lindsay Poggemiller-Smith, director of human resources and volunteer services at Siloam Mission and a then-Bison athlete from the women’s volleyball team, brought her team to volunteer. The initiative expanded as other Bison teams began to join the effort.
“I wanted to try to get Bison athletes engaged in a community that they don’t normally engage in,” Poggemiller-Smith said in an interview with Shaw TV. “Siloam was a great place to do that and so I brought some of my friends down, brought my volleyball team down, and then the coaches were graceful enough to let me expand it to other teams until UMAC got involved.
“And for the last seven or eight years there’s been a different rep carrying it to bring people down to Siloam for Christmas.”
“We obviously think it’s really important and we all like to give back and try to do what we can,” said Rosenbaum in reference to UMAC’s charity work.
The University of Manitoba Athletic Council and various Bison teams engage in a variety of other charity initiatives throughout the year. This year, the women’s hockey and basketball teams supported the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation with Shoot for the Cure games. Throughout the year UMAC also runs two programs in Winnipeg elementary schools: Bisons Against Bullying and Bison Book Buddies.
Upcoming projects, set for February, include raising funds for the Heart and Stroke Foundation during Bison games and having student athletes read to children as part of I Love to Read Month.
Commerce Students’ Association
The Commerce Students’ Association (CSA), which represents students in the Asper school of business, is, in conjunction with Asper, another leader on campus in terms of charity efforts. Their annual activities include Chillin’ for Charity which raises funds for the United Way, 5 Days for the Homeless which raises funds for Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY), and Shinerama, which raises money for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
In November 2013, over 50 students took turns diving into a pool of icy water as part of the University of Manitoba’s Chillin’ for Charity event, which was organized by Asper students. They raised over $17,500, with all the proceeds going to the United Way of Winnipeg. The fundraiser is an annual activity and is done in conjunction with business schools across Western Canada.
United Way of Winnipeg, the recipient of funds, is a major charitable organization in the city. Founded 50 years ago as a joint venture of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and the Winnipeg Labour Council, it works to fundraise and distribute to various groups in the city. It has also expanded its focus to broader planning in the charitable and non-profit sector.
Louise Waldman, United Way of Winnipeg director of communications, said that the funds it raises, including those raised by the U of M’s Chillin’ for Charity event, go towards a variety of initiatives throughout the city.
“All of that money gets invested in services through agencies and through programs throughout Winnipeg.
“There’s so many people whose lives are touched by United Way; they may not realize it but the network of programming we support is so broad: from mental health and physical health, to community and family resource centres, to youth programming, to cultural groups. It’s just a really important part of the fabric of our city.”
In 2014, 5 Days for the Homeless saw six students from the Asper school of business camping outside on the Fort Garry campus while still attending classes and engaging in their daily activities. The campaign ended up raising $27,350 for RaY, a local non-profit organization that works with Winnipeg’s homeless youth up to the age of 29. The organization intends to provide a non-judgmental environment in order to make young people comfortable and provide programs and services focused on ensuring health and wellness, access to employment and housing, and opportunities for recreation.
5 Days for the Homeless originated at the University of Alberta, spreading to other universities in Canada in 2008. Since its inception, 5 Days for the Homeless has raised over $985,000 for Canadian charitable organizations.
Shinerama is the national fundraising campaign for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Volunteers for the annual campaign include over 35,000 students from 60 Canadian universities and colleges, who raise money primarily by shining shoes. However, volunteers also cook burgers, wash cars, and contribute in a number of other ways.
The U of M plays a major role in the campaign every year, with local activities being organized by members of the CSA. The U of M campaign raised over $32,000 in 2014 and over $35,000 the year before that. Since the campaigns first launch in 1964, Shinarama has raised close to $25 million, which goes towards cystic fibrosis research and care.