A group of StFX students is forming an odd job squad for the month of October that will not only help them develop leadership skills, but in the process contribute to a worthy cause.
During the month of October, this year’s participants in the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership’s Xaverian Leaders program will offer a variety of volunteer services in exchange for donations to McKenna Centre partner, Nexos Communitarios, one of StFX’s Immersion Service Learning partners in Peru.
“This volunteer project is part of the Xaverian Leaders Certificate program, a year-long program that provides training in in-demand leadership skills offered by the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership,” says Maica Murphy, McKenna Centre Volunteer Coordinator, who is also taking on her role on a volunteer basis to support both the students in the program and StFX’s partner organization in Peru.
She says it is one of two group leadership projects that will provide students with the opportunity to actively practice and develop skills that are crucial for effective, transformational leadership, including effective communication, creative problem solving, team organization, and goal setting. The other group leadership project will take place in January and will be led by the students entirely, from deciding what issue they want to address to following through with a proposed solution.
It will also help benefit Nexos, which works with isolated Indigenous communities living in the Andes that are often not reachable by Peru’s poverty-relief efforts. Before the pandemic, StFX sent students every year to learn about life in the Andes for Indigenous Peruvians and to participate in Nexos’ responsible human development efforts wherein they support communities as they do their own development.
As a result, she says Nexos has given many StFX students life-changing experiences and many come back saying how much the experience has contributed to their personal growth and given them new perspective.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were lucky here in that many of us had the societal and institutional supports to help us manage the worst of its effect. In Peru, and particularly in the remote Andes, where Nexos operates, it was much more difficult. Many of the communities Nexos deals with suffered loss of income and health support, and already existing food insecurity was exacerbated. On top of that, many revenue streams and donations Nexos relies on to run its initiatives dried up. As for many of us, the pandemic meant that Nexos had to pivot. And they did, but it was very difficult. They have developed new programming and serve an even greater need than before. Maricarmen Valdiviese, founder of Nexos and StFX’s long-time Immersion Service Learning partner, informs us that COVID-19 increased the level of poverty by 10 per cent, so that 30 per cent of Peruvians are in poverty now. As a result, they are also starting to work in the urban areas of Lima where poverty has increased.”
The Peruvian government considers someone poor if their individual income is less than $110 CDN.
DIRECT AND CONCRETE LEADERSHIP
She says one of the aims of the McKenna Centre is to foster direct and concrete leadership that takes initiative by supporting those who need help and takes action to address social and environmental problems. “In other words, socially engaged leadership means taking action to foster better outcomes for those around us, to work with them so that they can do their work better. Our longstanding relationship with Nexos, our admiration for the work that they have been doing for years, and the increased need that arose because of COVID-19, made them a natural partner for our volunteer fundraising efforts.”
Mrs. Murphy says the McKenna Centre wants students to be able to think about identifying a problem or issue in their community or in the world and think about concrete ways they can take action to effect a positive change.
“We want students to think of leadership not as a quality, as something that you have, but as a concrete skill, as something that you do,” she says.
“During this activity, students will have the opportunity to take initiative in a number of areas including advertising, liaising with people who request services, logistics, and management. We hope this will be good practice for their second leadership group project that will take place over the month of January.”
There are currently over 70 students registered for the Xaverian Leaders certificate program, and all will be participating in the volunteer activity, which is one component of the program.
Registration for the Xaverian Leaders program is open to students in all years and in all programs, and it features a variety of activities and workshops designed to develop students’ leadership skills and to get them thinking about how to identify opportunities where they can best deploy those skills.
Some of the services the students will provide include:
Light yard work and Halloween decorating (the Odd Jobs Squad): Students will help local community members with yard work chores or other seasonal tasks around the house (outdoors, due to COVID precautions). This can include things like raking, pruning trees, putting burlap on bushes, cleaning windows, decorating for Halloween, and so on. They will charge $15 per hour per student.
Car washes take place on the following Saturdays: October 9, 16, 23, and 30 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Students will offer car washes on campus for $10. People can also pay ahead of time, and they will receive a voucher for the car wash.
Dog walking: Students will pick up the dog and take him/her for a 45-minute walk, complete with owner-approved post-walk treat. $10
Virtual tutoring and mentoring for children (aged five to 17): If parents want to set up their children with someone to talk to for school encouragement, help with their homework, or want to ask university students what it’s like to be a student at a university or about how to apply, the Xaverian Leaders students will offer videoconference sessions during which they will offer their time and knowledge to help mentor youth. Sessions can be “one-offs” or scheduled regularly throughout the month. The McKenna Centre will post a list of specific areas of service closer to October 2.
This fundraiser launches October 2 and runs the entire month. Anyone interested in inquiring about getting a service organized, can visit xaverianleaders.com or email @email.
On the program’s website, people will also be able to select services by filling out a form providing details about the services they would like. Once they do that, Xaverian Leader volunteers will email them to set up a time and firm up the logistics. People can also email @email directly. Payment for services as well as direct support for Nexos will be accepted by e-transfer to @email.