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July 20, 2010

United Way Mega Week of Caring

About the job

As with many large companies, Shell has a relationship with the United Way organization. There were opportunities that came up for leadership roles during the Mega-Week of Caring campaign, so I applied. The job given to me was to coordinate an event with an organization called The John Howard Society. With 5 other volunteers, our main task was to landscape the yard of one of their transitional youth houses.

About the organization

Prior to this volunteer experience, I had never heard of The John Howard Society. Upon being assigned to the job, I did some research and found that John Howard, whom the society was named after, was a proponent of prison reform in Europe. He advocated for prisoner rights during a time when prisons were literally dank, unsanitary dungeons. Where death rates were high and plagues were borne. On horse-back he traveled throughout Europe, including France, Germany and Russia, educating prison wardens and owners on creating adequate prison conditions.
Flash-forward to today, The John Howard Society of Calgary, takes a proactive approach to preventing crime through assisting at-risk youth. Their transitional housing is offered to youth (16-22 years old) at risk of not having a place to live. Residency can be obtained through counselor referral or on a voluntary (or self-referral) basis.
The program teaches the youth life skills such as financial management, career planning, and house-hold management; it teaches self-sufficiency and independence. All of these core skills needed to keep them working and out of trouble.

About my role
For this particular job, we worked with the staff and the youth of the transitional home to improve the landscape of the front yard. Our team, along with the staff and youth, quickly went to work. We planted flower and shrub gardens, trimmed hedges, mowed the lawns, pulled up weeds, and cut out chunks of grass to put in stepping stones. When we were done, the staff and residents were excited for their new landscape, and the volunteers were happy to have had the opportunity (it also helped that it was a whopping 27 degrees).
The event was positive all around. Everybody had a good, safe time, and we were able to contribute positively to the community.

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