Trip blends volunteer and learning experiences

Earlier this month, a group of 13 Mount Saint Vincent University students, two faculty and one staff member spent a week in New York City as part of the Business & Tourism Department’s volunteer tourism course. While in the “Big Apple”, the group took in the sights and sounds, while also giving their time to community organizations that are making a big impact in the lives of city residents.

The concept of the volunteer tourism course was inspired by the Sisters of Charity – Halifax who started the Living Charity program in 2016 with a trip to New Orleans. The Business and Tourism Department has worked closely with the Sisters of Charity to identify community organizations to partner with for the study tour trip. Four Tourism students also received financial support from the Marriott Enhancement Fund, which provides experiential learning opportunities for students in MSVU’s Tourism and Hospitality Management program. The fund was generously established in early 2019 through a grant from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

Business Tourism group at st john bread and life

One of the remarkable organizations students volunteered with was St. John’s Bread and Life (SJBL) in Brooklyn, NY. SJBL works to relieve hunger and poverty in the Brooklyn and Queens areas by serving nearly 3,000 meals per day to those in need. SJBL and their partners also supply medical care, legal counselling, nutrition education, spiritual guidance and other social services. Students spent time assisting the SJBL team with meal preparation, filling orders in the food pantry, and serving hot meals.

business tourism trip emma goldieTourism and Hospitality Management student, Emma Goldie (pictured right) participated in the study tour trip. For her, the experience was eye-opening.

“I came home from this trip so humbled by all the good that these organizations are doing for different communities in New York City,” Emma said. “Not only are the organizations providing diverse services, but they are so desperately needed. I feel grateful that the Mount gives students the opportunity to do trips like this as part of our education.”

Chair of the Department of Business and Tourism, Dr. Peter Mombourquette is passionate about ensuring students get opportunities like this to broaden their knowledge and experience.

“The Mount has a strong tradition of social responsibility and we know that service-learning has benefits for both the students and community. These types of opportunities allow students to experience a new place and to build societal awareness in a hands-on way. Throughout the trip, we also get students to reflect on what they are seeing and experiencing. It’s pretty amazing to see them develop their communication, leadership and teamwork abilities,” said Peter.

On the second day of the trip, students worked with River Fund New York, a long-standing poverty amelioration organization whose client-base is 40% children. Its mission is to feed and empower those it serves to break the cycle of poverty. The MSVU group assisted by distributing groceries and household supplies to nearly 1,200 clients. Students also learned about the history of the River Fund and the diverse empowerment-focused services offered to clients.

MSVU Business Tourism group photo 2019

The third volunteering destination of the trip was the Central Park Conservancy, which works to restore, manage, and enhance NYC’s Central Park. The organization is responsible for seeding, fertilizing, planting, cleaning, building and maintaining infrastructure, as well as environmental protection. For the Central Park Conservancy, students raked more than 100 bags of leaves that had to be removed for the health of the park’s natural environment.

The group also found some time for a little fun, taking in a Broadway show and exploring Times Square and Rockefeller Centre.

Scott Daniels, Manager of Co-op Education and a longstanding staff member at MSVU, has been involved in organizing and participating in many study tour trips. He continues to be inspired by the impact the study tour has on students.

“Each year is an opportunity for a new group of students who come from diverse backgrounds,” Scott said. “I’m always amazed by how quickly the students come together to reach a common goal and impressed by all of the hard work they put in over the week. These experiences teach us compassion, humility and open our eyes to other points of view. I think it’s so important that students get opportunities like these.”

The study tour course is expected to be offered again in the fall 2020 semester.