Helping Hands club’s focus on service and fun appeals to many students

When Year 11 student John Voudouris joined UCC’s Helping Hands club in Year 8, it had 10 members. Today, John is head of the club, and membership totals about 110.
John credits his vice-president and classmate, Alan Cui, and the executive team, for making Helping Hands such a success.

"I'm very happy with our progress," says John. “We have a group of really dedicated students and an experienced executive team, with each member focusing on a particular Year level and encouraging people to join.”

Helping Hands’ goal, says John, is "to give students an opportunity to be active in the community and have a profound impact." It’s a goal they are meeting, with a slate of activities that includes a bubble tea sale to raise money for Operation Smile, an organization that repairs cleft palates for children who can’t afford the surgery; a festive marketplace sale to benefit United Way; a clothing drive for Nellie’s (a shelter for women and children); and a food drive in support of the Daily Bread Food Bank.

"We want to create a generation of students who are interested in making a difference," says John, who began his own efforts in this vein as a Year 5 student, when he created a Nellie’s holiday wish-list drive. "Our goals work well in conjunction with the International Baccalaureate value of creating more well-informed, active global citizens."

As an extra bonus, many of the club’s events also offer the students an opportunity to accumulate the community service hours mandated by the province.

The Helping Hands executive encourages its members to organize an event or participate in one that has been planned. Each event has a leader who learns organizational and promotional skills planning an activity, supported by fellow club members. The club also invites speakers, such as the chief executive officer of Operation Smile, and organizes enjoyable events that raise awareness of the club; this fall’s Halloween costume contest was held during an assembly.

The executive looks to faculty adviser Gillian Levene for assistance, and gets input from Thomas Babits, the director of Community Service, Clubs and CAS.

The club is also looking beyond the UCC campus, working with other schools to create their own Helping Hands clubs.

"Helping Hands is a popular and active club," says Babits. "Students involved over several years have learned from past leaders and this year's executive team, under John’s leadership, has really seized the opportunity to expand the scope of service activities. They are bringing to life our definition of service: collaborative and reciprocal engagement with the community in response to an authentic need."
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