Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/2/2021 (220 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Years ago, when I was in college, I experienced something that will stick with me forever.
It was near the end of my last semester of the two-year creative communications program at Red River College. Graduation was so close, but at the time it seemed impossibly far away. My student line of credit was dwindling, and life outside of being a student pressed on even though school was all-encompassing.
I was in my early 30s. I lived alone in a small apartment and worked part-time weekend shifts as a casino security officer. I cycled between paying for rent, bills, food, all while paying down the line of credit I was using to cushion the shortfalls of my income. It was hard, but my experience was in no way worse than many other students. For a while, I would pick up extra overnight shifts at work as a way to supplement my income. I would wake up at 2:30 a.m., go to work for 3:15 a.m. and be out just in time to head to school for the day. My plan seemed feasible at first, but things quickly started to unravel. It turns out some hours in the day are meant for rest. I overestimated my ability to function with so little sleep.
My journalism instructor, Duncan McMonagle, noticed I had been struggling more than normal. I’d missed a couple of assignments, my work was sloppy, and the only thing I seemed to do was show up for class. He pulled me aside and asked me if I needed help. I remember it vividly, because in that moment I was seen. I never wanted to ask for help because I wasn’t sure what kind of help I even needed. I knew there were people more in need than me. My struggle felt heavy, but it wasn’t grave.
In hindsight, I realize I needed someone to reach out, to encourage me to recognize it was OK to ask for help, even if I hadn’t reached a dire point.
It was such a poignant moment in my life, something I reflect on often. So, a few weeks ago, when I was invited to talk to second-year creative communications students about a project they’re doing called Meals in Motion — an online campaign in partnership with the college’s student association that collects money and food for students — I jumped at the chance. I fit the bill of their target audience.
The initiative, which the class of 12 has been planning since the beginning of this term, is a food drive, but it has a few components that make it unique. People can donate money or submit a budget-friendly "meal hack" idea at mealsinmotion.org, as well as supplying the ingredients for a food kit and recipe that will be donated to a student.
"It’s really just students helping students," student Colin Jackson, the project manager of the campaign, said. "There are so many students who work service and industry jobs who are really struggling because they can’t work right now because of the pandemic."
On March 13, the class will offer contactless pickup throughout Winnipeg for the food donations from people who registered to make a kit. They’ll give the donations to the student association food bank.
While they are being graded on this assignment, Jackson said he and his classmates have learned a lot and have been moved by their mission. "You don’t even know who is struggling because that’s not something that many people are willing to share, especially now over a Zoom chat."
People who want to donate or students who are in need can check out mealsinmotion.org.
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project
Shelley Cook is a columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press and manages the paper's Reader Bridge project, which seeks to expand coverage of underserved communities.