Feb. 7, 2023

Student-organized festival brings services, hope to vulnerable Calgarians

Second Calgary pop-up care village lands at downtown’s Kerby Centre

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but for some 100 local volunteers — including students from across the University of Calgary — a village can also start something special and come together to help support those in need.

The second Calgary pop-up care village (C-PUCV) event took place Jan. 24 at the Kerby Centre, aimed at providing important information to vulnerable Calgarians. More than 50 agencies were represented and provided access to health care, clothing, haircuts, food and other services, many provided right on site in Kerby’s gymnasium, such as massage and a clothing pick-up.

Reflecting the entrepreneurial spirit of UCalgary students, as well as the basic tenet of providing hope, event manager Bill Zheng calls the C-PUCV a festival.

“(It is) for anyone experiencing systemic vulnerabilities such as homelessness, addiction, cultural/language barriers, etc.,” says the first-year Faculty of Nursing student, who was inspired to co-ordinate the first C-PUCV last fall after seeing a similar event in San Francisco while he was in high school and through his work with BeTheChangeYYC.

“We have services ranging from immigration services to youth services, entertainment to ID clinics … so, a lot of specialized services here, all in one place, meeting (people) where they are at.”

Providing a one-stop shop for the hundreds of attendees was important, says co-event manager Hanna Woodward, a fourth-year Faculty of Social Work student.

“The guests coming to the event can figure out what programs are available to them, so it’s sort of aiding in program navigation,” Woodward says.

“But it’s also a good opportunity for organizations and people who work and volunteer at those organizations to make partnerships with each other.”

Zheng and Woodward recruited about 100 volunteers, including many students from across UCalgary and beyond. Woodward says aside from directly aiding Calgarians in need today, the students also gained valuable volunteer and networking experience that will serve them well if they volunteer with more community organizations down the line.

“I really want to emphasize that this is a student-driven event,” says Zheng. “There’s tons of UCalgary students here … and also (Mount Royal University) students, and even high school students. We want to let people know that Calgary is a vibrant, useful community that cares about its community members.”

Learn more about the Calgary pop-up care village.

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