Poverty is a significant issue in Canada, especially in London, Ontario. An estimated 1 in 7, or 4.9 million, Canadians live below the poverty line, and in London, the poverty rate stands even higher than the national average, at around 15 per cent. To help combat this, Ivey MBA students volunteered with four local non-profits on a variety of initiatives aimed at addressing poverty and homelessness for Social Impact Day on March 11.
The non-profit organizations and activities included:
- Habitat for Humanity – Organizing the sales floor to better use the space, sorting the processing area for donations, and assisting with cleaning and pricing donations;
- London Food Bank – Supporting staff with various operational tasks in the warehouse;
- Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre – Putting together warming kits; and,
- Big Brothers Big Sisters London Area – Registering people for the organization’s upcoming Virtual Bake Sale.
This is the second Social Impact Day organized by the 2022 MBA cohort. Another was held in the summer. Student organizer Brad Danks, an MBA ’22 candidate, says planning the winter event was different due to the limited opportunities to be indoors, a challenge many homeless Canadians face during the winter months.
“It is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves on some of the issues that we deal with as a society and learn how we might be able to help contribute to the solution," said Danks.
Giving back to the community
Ivey Business School has been operating within the community of London for almost 100 years. Many students go on to live and work in the city following graduation. That’s why the MBA students strive to give back to the community that supports them in so many ways.
“Over the course of the year, we’ve had the opportunity to be learning and supported by the community of London,” says student organizer Swany Koul, an MBA ’22 candidate. “They have given to us in so many ways, made accommodations for us, and made the city hospitable for many of us who do not come from Canada. This is a great way for us to give back to them.”
The event gave participants the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at non-profits. For many of the students, this was eye-opening.
“This has been an informative and enriching experience. I feel really grateful to be making an impact on the community,” says Annabelle Tory, an MBA ’22 candidate who participated in the day.
Helping those less fortunate
As part of the day-long event, students put together “warming kits,” which included items such as gloves, socks, hand warmers, bus tickets, lip balm, and more. These kits are distributed to individuals living in areas of London that are disproportionately affected by poverty and homelessness.
Jennifer Martino, Executive Director at Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre, spoke to the students about the challenges facing those living in poverty.
“It is difficult to play a leadership role or to even think about day-to-day life when you’re hungry,” Martino said. “It is hard to be your best self and reach your potential.”
She said Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre services the Hamilton Road neighbourhood where 27 per cent of families make below the city-wide average salary. The warming kits made by the students will be given primarily to people who are sleeping in tents and to those who are having challenges staying warm.
“We all have something to contribute,” says Martino.
Shortage of volunteers
Due to COVID-19, many non-profits have struggled to maintain their volunteer base, which has created a number of challenges. Such is the case for Habitat for Humanity, and its employees were grateful to have the students help with reorganizing, remerchandising, and processing items at two ReStore London locations.
“The students have been wonderful to have,” said Miranda Connor, General Administration at Habitat for Humanity. “At its core, Habitat for Humanity runs on volunteers. We try to give volunteers opportunities wherever we can regardless of their previous experiences.”
With the help of the students, ReStore London was able to change over its seasonal merchandise. This allows for better product visibility and higher sales in the long run.
“Merchandise doesn’t sell from the back room,” says Connor.
Turning learnings into action
Ivey’s mission was on full-display during the event. Students were encouraged to think inwardly and contemplate the effect volunteering has on their own professional development.
“As you learn at Ivey, we are leaders in the community. Not just in the business world, but outside around the community. Doing things like this is a great way to not only feel this leadership, but to get some hands-on experience,” said John Hanarhan, an MBA ’22 candidate who participated.
Cultivating community leadership
Social Impact Day is a tradition rooted in Ivey’s core values. Supported by Ivey’s Centre for Building Sustainable Value, MBA students get out of class and into the community. Each cohort gives back by partnering with local not-for-profit organizations.
Here are image highlights from the event;
Social Impact Day 2022
MBA students at London Food Bank
MBA student helping at ReStore London Adelaide
MBA students with ReStore London staff
MBA students making warming kits for Crouch London
Warming kit being received by greatful recipient