Student Voices: Helping… but in the most helpful way | Work of Arts
Student Voices: Helping… but in the most helpful way | Work of Arts

Student Voices: Helping… but in the most helpful way

CSL student blogger Narisa Bandali shares the importance of truly listening to a community's needs

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.



Narisa at the Edmonton Potterwatch Institute’s annual Yule Ball, in support of iHuman. Photo by Shiraz Bandali

Community Service-Learning (CSL) gives its students many opportunities to meet new people in environments different from what they are used to. These opportunities allow growth and new ways of thinking. The value of CSL extends further than an embedded certificate or volunteer hours. It has changed the way I live my life and the way I want to help people.

The volunteer placements for a CSL component are 20 hours, just enough to whet a taste for social justice and to instill an urge to help as many people as you can. It does not only give you the drive for social justice, but the tools and the theory for it as well.

The CSL-designated course CSL 100: Introduction to Community Engagement has been one of my favourite classes in all of my undergraduate degrees. In that class, I learned a lot of important things, including what truly helps people.

It is important to act with the community, rather than for the community.

Students help Edmonton’s community by completing projects requested by CSL community partners, instead of imposing projects on the partners that they believe will help the community. I try to remember this value when completing my own charity work.

I have been involved in a few charities during my undergraduate time here, and I always try to keep in mind the theories that I learned from my CSL classes and placements. Namely, it is important to act with the community, rather than for the community, and that awareness of issues is the first step to solving an issue. How can people help a situation if they have no idea that it exists?

In May 2013, I joined a charitable society, the Edmonton Potterwatch Institute for Charity — the local chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance that uses the power of story to empower and help the community. As a small charity group that turns three years old next year, it is important to effectively address issues in the community. Now that I am president of this charity, I use what I’ve learned through CSL to try and help people in the way they are asking for it.

902785_10151664761783436_884005788_oFor example, every year we run a book drive and we carefully curate books for the recipients. Some agencies will take any type of books, but others will only take children’s books. Sorting the books beforehand is a task that is easy enough for us, but is extremely helpful for the agencies. It also minimizes the waste from these agencies as they are forced to get rid of items they don’t need.

Our next initiative, which I am really excited about, is a Necessities Drive for the SAGE (Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton) House, a not-for-profit seniors’ organization. We’re collecting things that the women there really need, things that they’ve asked for.

I am grateful for CSL, for the professional opportunities that have come from it, but also because it has expanded the way I think about charitable actions and about what really is good for the community.

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About Narisa Bandali

Narisa Bandali

Narisa Bandali is a fifth-year student with a major in English and a minor in Spanish. She enjoys discussing books and movies and marathoning TV shows on Netflix. The fastest way to make her happy is to give her a new book, a chocolate chip cookie or a volunteering opportunity. One of her favourite book series is Harry Potter and she is the president of the charitable society, "Edmonton Potterwatch Institute for Charity," a group that works to help improve the Edmonton community. She is the Fall 2015 Community Service-Learning Intern and is pursuing the CSL certificate.