Written by: Mike Wagenman on behalf of the Student Team
Over the last few months, we have had the honour of serving Western students who are living in residence through the "Love Western!" project.
As we approach the first anniversary of the COVID pandemic and lockdown restrictions, it is clear that the rippling impact of this will be long-lasting. While we tend to focus on the many limiting aspects of this pandemic, recently we have chosen to notice how the world is coming together to support each other in new ways. The care packages delivered to students living in residence (400 Fall term and 550 during Winter term’s Reading Week) were made possible through new connections between Equity and Wellness Education (Student Experience) and many community partners.
Housing at Western is an important part of the Western experience. Traditionally, it is in residence that young adults learn to live in relationship (and close proximity) with one another and prepare for post-graduate life and work. Many lifelong relationships are formed during a student's stay in housing at Western. With the health risks related to COVID restrictions, life in housing has been re-defined in many ways. While many students went home over the lockdown, many other students – without family close by or without safe family – the lack of interaction with peers, friends, and family was negatively impacting their mental well-being.
As a group of student and campus leaders, it became clear to us that neighbouring businesses and community organizations could respond to this challenge by providing some tangible form of comfort and encouragement to Western students. Working with a group of incredible student volunteers, we developed care packages for students living in residence over the fall and spring reading weeks. Each package contained an abundance of treats, notes, and items that a student might need. Most importantly, this was a way to remind the students that they are loved.
We hope to carry out one last delivery to students before the academic year ends. We’re grateful for the partnership of Student Experience, Residence staff, student volunteers, and many community organizations who all contributed to this project!