Our guest blog this week comes from our friends at United Way of Calgary! Today we have Jerrica telling us about her experience with United Way, Gen Next and her previous work with The Urban Exposure Project. Scroll, read and enjoy :)
Let's dive into it!
I didn’t know I would end up with a greater appreciation for my city, empathy for those around me and friendships to last a lifetime, but that’s exactly what I have after volunteering with Gen Next for the past five years. I wouldn’t even say it feels like typical volunteering. What I’ve experienced is being able to discuss ideas and issues in our community with people who are just as curious and excited to make a change as I am. My volunteer path has been one of exploration and learning, and everyone’s path is different, but I would say all are fueled by curiosity and passion. This is my story of involvement that’s led to a greater connection with my community and what makes us all Calgary, what’s yours?
It started when I was a new grad and I had just started my first “grown-up” job. I was managing the work-life balance pretty well and heard about this Urban Exposure Project from a friend of mine who had done it the year previous. It looked like a way to build some photography skills – I had none – and to learn more about this city that I had called home for six years already.
The Urban Exposure Project (UEP) is a program run by Gen Next that explores social issues in our city through photography. I joined along with 25 others to tackle photography week-by-week and learn about what social issues our city was facing. UEP allowed us to go on tours of community agencies to see first-hand how they operate and hear directly from them about the people they support and the circumstances they fight to expand beyond. The project blew me away. I felt like a curtain had been pulled back on the city I called home. I was inspired by the people in our community who are looking at our complex issues and offering solutions because they want to help others succeed. It was completely selfless and inspiring. The project culminated with a photo exhibit where we all created photo boards telling the story of our experience through the program. Prints were sold with proceeds going to United Way and all of our images donated back for the organization to use in their materials.
After UEP came to an end I knew I wanted to come back and see others experience what I had; see the wonder, the excitement and the awe as layers of their community are peeled back. I ended up becoming a facilitator for the project for a few years before joining Gen Next’s core team. Gen Next hosts a number of educational and skill-building programs as well as gatherings centred around philanthropy to inspire young Calgarians to be active in philanthropy and community. Now I work with eight other passionate Calgarians working to bring more awareness to what goes on in our city and inspire others to get involved and give back because after all, we are all Calgary.
Tune in next week to see what we have on the blog next! If you are someone you know would like to be a guest blogger on our blog drop us a line! Chat at chaaa next week Calgary - stay local!