Alumni 'do great things' through volunteerism

(Edmonton) After 15 years of working with at-risk youth, University of Alberta alumna Sandra Bromley has witnessed first-hand how volunteering makes a difference in the community.

Bromley is an artist and co-founder of iHuman Youth Society, which uses the arts as a tool to foster talent and hope in youth who would otherwise fall through the cracks of homelessness, abuse or addiction. As iHuman’s volunteer board chair, she has seen kids who have never been told they are talented—or even valuable—find a spark when someone takes an interest and provides encouragement.

“People don’t understand the kids, they don’t understand their potential, they don’t understand the challenges. But these kids have amazing personalities, amazing potential and ways to give back,” says Bromley (‘79 BFA). “When they come here and work with our staff, all of a sudden these kids have a family and a way forward.”

‘Do great things’

Every day, thousands of U of A alumni like Bromley do great things for their communities in the spirit of volunteerism. The University of Alberta Alumni Association wants to hear about those efforts, which is why they’re putting out a challenge to engage all 250,000 alumni worldwide about the benefits of volunteerism.

Launched April 21 in conjunction with National Volunteer Week, the U of A Alumni Volunteer Challenge aims to record 2,015 volunteer experiences by the association’s 100th anniversary in 2015.

“We have always known that U of A alumni feel very strongly about the importance of bringing their time and talents to bear in the service of their communities, the province and the global community,” says Jane Halford, president of the alumni association.

Throughout the challenge, the association will co-ordinate and facilitate U of A alumni volunteer efforts, including some already planned for Edmonton such as a River Valley Cleanup (June 1), Habitat for Humanity build (July 12 and 13) and events during the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in August. Volunteers will receive Do Great Things T-shirts—reinforcing the value of U of A alumni working for community.

“The Alumni Volunteer Challenge is our chance to demonstrate to everyone the impact that alumni can have when they come together. That’s why the theme of the campaign is Do Great Things,” Halford says.

In addition to her role with iHuman, Bromley volunteers her time with several arts organizations and on the U of A Art Acquisitions Committee. She also founded Bo Girls Group, a small charity that provides training for young girls and women affected by war in Sierra Leone. Giving her time to help others is not work. It’s a part of her life. But more important, it’s part of a far bigger picture, she says.

“Volunteering creates a healthier, stronger community and it’s good for everybody.”