As part of the class I took this month, Democracy and Justice, we were required to complete a service-learning project. We had several different options to fulfill the service requirement, including volunteering for Sea-to-Sky Community Services (helping out at the Squamish municipal candidates forum this month), or volunteering with Lead Now (canvassing the neighborhood regarding LNG development). Our group, however, chose to volunteer at Squamish ReBuild, a non-profit organization that recycles used building supplies and sells the donated supplies at a significantly discounted price (50 to 90% off retail), with the aim of reducing waste that ends up in the landfill.
We were required to put in a minimum of twelve hours over three weeks. During the three weeks, we helped create signs, disassemble appliances, furniture and light fixtures, and to re-organize materials that were for sale. Squamish ReBuild is in the process of downsizing their space, so we helped move items that were in their old warehouse into their main lot, which they are upgrading to have more covered area for doors and furniture. Although there was a fair amount of moving items around—and sometimes double-moving—to make more room for the items from the warehouse in addition to new items that were dropped off, I can say that through the process I learned a fair number of useful skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise. For instance, I now know how to operate a pallet jack, and how to remove a drain and faucet from a sink using a pipe wrench, and I now know that aluminum, brass and copper, because they are not magnetic, are recycled separately from magnetic scrap metal.
Having completed the service portion of the assignment, we were then faced with the challenge of creating a ‘philosophical business plan’, to implement what we were doing volunteering into the formation of a new organization at Quest. Our group came up with the idea to start a student organization that deals with end of school year waste. Every year, as students move out for the summer, a large amount of furniture, appliances, clothes, etc., is dispensed with that ends up going to the landfill. The purpose of our proposed, End-of-year Re-Use it Initiative is to re-use and recycle unwanted materials left behind by students by organizing garage sales, donating materials to thrift shops, and transporting remaining materials to Squamish’s Recycling Centre. Although for our class, we only created a proposal, having now worked out the rules of procedure, the expenses and all the steps necessary to have the organization run effectively and democratically, the End-of-year Re-Use it Initiative could become a reality by the end of the spring term.
I enjoyed the opportunity to participate in and connect with the Squamish community as part of our class. Even after living at Quest for almost seven months, I tend not to have much interaction with Squamish residents, and am not even aware of the many organizations in town. It seemed a bit strange at first that as part of learning about democracy and justice, we would be required to volunteer our time, especially in my group’s case at an organization that is not directly involved in politics. However, with the experience behind me now, I have to say that the process makes good sense to me. I now feel more connected to the broader Squamish community, I’m looking forward to the possibility of an End-of-year Re-Use it Initiative at Quest, and I’ve gained some new skills.