In February, the Mater Hospital brimmed with empathy and compassion as MacEwan University students of the Bachelors of Child and Youth Care programme in Edmonton, Canada, partnered with Localise to distribute heartfelt handmade cards and Valentines presents to the cardiac unit; Sacred Heart Ward.

Sean McEwen, a 2014 MacEwan University graduate and now Localise’s Youth & Integration Coordinator, is an alumnus of the MacEwan Degree programme. This programme equips students to aid young people and their families in community engagement, navigate mental health issues, substance misuse, education, poverty, communication barriers, or family conflicts.

Since his graduation and enrolment in a Master’s programme in Ireland, Sean has maintained ties with his professors Christine Pope and Jenny McGrath, supporting them in making connections with Irish agencies for student study. These study trips to Ireland explore the parallels and disparities between Canadian and Irish practices, unravelling how Ireland’s history shapes social care and youth work, similar to Canada’s historical influences.

In mid-January, Sean facilitated the Localise Volunteering in Action (VIA) workshop via Zoom, allowing MacEwan students to grasp the essence of Localise. 

“As a former student who has done this trip, this is something I would have loved to be a part of. It’s great to hear about the programmes and projects available to people throughout Ireland and hear it from the perspective of participants or service users, but the real learning happens through getting to experience it first-hand,” says Sean.

After weeks of anticipation, the students arrived in Ireland, eager to embark on their volunteer action project with Localise. The day before Valentines’ Day, MacEwan students and lecturers, Sadhbh, Keelin and Sean met at the Localise office. Crafting 100 handmade cards and assembling Valentines Day presents for patients and staff in the Mater Hospital’s Sacred Heart Ward. Interacting with former Localise participants Sadhbh and Keelin, currently in secondary school, provided invaluable insights for the MacEwan students to hear about a young persons’ experience in Localise.

Every patient received chocolates, a water bottle, tissues, headphones, hand cream, and that always important handmade card. The students were driven by the prospect of making a difference.

The impact was profound; for many patients, a MacEwan student’s visit marked their first since admission, while some received their first ever Valentine’s card or gift. The students’ compassion left an indelible mark, emphasising the importance of kindness and empathy.

It has been a deep pleasure to be included and contribute as an international volunteer to a significant and heartwarming project. Interacting and sharing timeless moments with patients from all different walks of life was a gift in itself. I extend my deepest gratitude to every single person involved in this special day.  

Jasmine La, MacEwan University Student

Localise would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Christine Pope and Jenny McGrath for their invaluable contributions for making this project a reality for the students, the MacEwan University students for all their hard work, Dolores Heary and Lucia Maierean of Mater Hospital for their time and providing a space for the students to participate, and finally, Sadhbh and Keelin for taking time out of their midterm break and their dedication to the project.

A simple act of kindness can easily become a catalyst for positive change in our communities.

On behalf of Localise Youth Volunteering and MacEwan University Child and Youth Care Programme, we would like to dedicate this project to the memory of Catherine Hedlin.

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