York alumni team up with Habitat for Humanity

Outfitted in hard hats and steel-toe boots, a large group of York alumni spent last Saturday on a townhouse construction site in Toronto’s Jane and Weston neighbourhood. They were the second York alumni group to work at that site this month.

Sweaty and dust covered, the group chatted enthusiastically about the project, a Habitat for Humanity house build. “It’s amazing to contribute to the community as York alumni,” said Milton Punsammy (BA ’08). His sentiment was echoed by nods from the other alumni.

Right: Mamdouh Shoukri, York president & vice-chancellor, (left) joins a group of alumni at the abitat for Humanity construction site

“It is really great to see so many of our alumni giving back and supporting the local community,” said Mamdouh Shoukri, York’s president & vice-chancellor. “At York, not only do our students grow academically, personally and professionally, but they also leave with a sense of social responsibility.”

For the alumni, the day’s work involved drywalling, strapping and framing. They were divided into three groups and each received training on their assigned tasks. “An experienced volunteer pays close attention to the safety and quality of our work,” explained Punsammy.

Learning new skills and how to use power tools, like a reciprocating saw, was another highlight for the group. “I always wanted to learn more about building, and it’s a great project as well. You can even read the bios of the families who’ll be living here. When you see something like this you get in touch with the project. It makes it feel very real,” said Mora Ouellette (BA Hons. ’10).

Left: Alumni take a work break at the Habitat for Humanity building site

In addition, said Shoukri, “it’s really important that the young children of these families have a comfortable and safe environment in which to live, so that they too can reach their potential.”

As they stood side-by-side smiling for pictures, the 17 grads, who’d never met before and had all come to the event alone, remarked how pleasantly surprised they were with the relationships that had formed over the course of the morning.

This was the fifth alumni Habitat build in four years. “We’ll definitely be organizing another build again because they’re so popular with our grads. In fact, every time we organize a build we have a wait-list,” said Lindsay Reid, alumni stewardship manager. Reid hopes York chapters around the world will soon be organizing community events like this one. To find out about future alumni events, visit the York Alumni Web site.