Despite limitations on in-person gatherings due to COVID-19, secondary students across the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board were still able to make an impact in the community this year, thanks to a website dedicated to helping youth find Christian Service opportunities.
Created by St. John Henry Newman Catholic Secondary School alumna Lucia Marchionda, the website was developed in May of 2018 to help students find information on where to accumulate their mandatory 40 hours of community service.
“When I was in Grade 12, I had accumulated over 3,000 volunteer hours,” said Marchionda. “However, many of my peers did not know where to earn their volunteer hours. That’s when my idea of building a Christian Service website came together.”
“My goal of creating the website was to have an informative source that gives students all information regarding Christian Service and promote the importance of volunteerism.”
“With more engaging visuals, greater interactivity, and an increased amount of information about volunteer opportunities, usage of the website continues to grow,” added Dr. Paul Beaudette, Christian Service Coordinator and Program Leader for Religion and Family Life.
The website even includes a section for student reflections of their volunteer experience.
“I believe it’s important to showcase student reflections on the website because it motivates other students to make a difference and recognize student engagement in the community,” said Marchionda.
In 2019, Marchionda, now the Christian Service Program Webmaster, launched a Christian Service Twitter and Instagram page to connect with students who are most likely to use social media platforms as an information tool. A year later, TikTok was introduced.
“HWCDSB secondary schools then share our posts on their platforms, which increases the engagement to students and staff across the board.”
Since the website’s new design, and the integration of three social media platforms, Marchionda has noticed that student engagement has increased exponentially, resulting in more outreach throughout the community.
With COVID-19 thrown into the mix, these resources have been crucial in ensuring opportunities are still available to students needing to complete their hours.
“We have been fortunate to offer a number of virtual volunteer opportunities,” Marchionda.
Some of these included writing letters/cards to seniors in retirement homes, writing letters to staff and patients at McMaster Children’s Hospital and St. Peter’s Hospital and participating in virtual events like the Terry Fox Run and THINK Fast in support of Development and Peace Caritas of Canada.
“We will continue to rely on the online presence of the HWCDSB Christian Service program to be of significant help to students who wish to make a difference in their schools and the wider community through acts of Christian Service,” said Beaudette.
To learn about what volunteer opportunities are available, please visit: https://www.hwcdsbcs.com/
or follow along on social media @cshwcdsb.