Campus International Chapters

International Rebuild New Orleans

Toronto    After an early morning meeting with our friends at SEIU Canada discussing where organizing and our partnership should go, Judy Duncan and I were off to Guelph about an hour and a half from Toronto.  
I had met three young and dynamic women from the University of Guelph when they happened to volunteer in the rebuilding of New Orleans several months ago.  They had quickly convinced me that the University of Guelph was the epicenter of volunteerism in Canada with over 70% of the student population participating in volunteer and service projects throughout the year.  They had also dangled the magic notion in front of me about whether or not we might want an ACORN International Chapter at the University of Guelph.  On that slim reed Judy and I were trekking to Guelph, where it turned out that neither of us had ever visited, in order to see how we could put together the next steps.
We met our three friends — Nikoletta Papadopaulos, Deniz Ergun, and Meghan Pistchik –at the Guelph Volunteer Centre near the middle of this 100,000 population, picturesque college town.  We were quickly joined by a new recruit to the cause, Leah Serafini, and after a brief meeting with the Volunteer Center staff, we were off for a cup of coffee and a chance to start taking notes and making the plan.  We had definitely stumbled onto the right organizers, although all of them were on the verge of graduating this semester, they were well connected and committed to making this happen with us.
It turned out that there was an international program at Guelph as well as a Latin American department.  Both encouraged and required internships, so work with ACORN International in our various offices would be a gift for both of us.  As an added benefit, two of the women were from Hamilton and were interested in helping out James Wardlaw in getting this newest ACORN Canada office up and running.  Furthermore, they told about a waiting list during “reading” week and at other times where students from the University of Guelph were trying to work in the recovery of New Orleans and would be delighted to get to volunteer with New Orleans ACORN on projects down there as well.  We had hit the volunteering trifecta or better since this seemed to be working four ways rather than three.
There seemed to be lots of ways to go in setting up our first ACORN International Chapter at the University of Guelph.  Our UG organizing team was going to check the rules but thought it was a simple matter of 20 signatures which they could get in about 30 seconds flat, but they weren’t sure we would even want to mess with the bureaucracy.  We might want to simply form the chapter with their contacts, start putting out the word about the opportunities to work with ACORN International in Canada and abroad, and then go from there.
Judy and I liked the way these women from Guelph thought about the world.  I asked at one point where there any men that went to Guelph?  They all laughed.  Not many got in the way of progress at Guelph, since the ratio was about 7 women to every man there, so they were ready to tackle the world and had all the confidence and gumption we had hoped to find, so we were ready to tackle it with them!