Nine-day trip, life-changing experience

Jim Norgate is on a mission, and he’s bringing 23 students along with him.

The coordinator for NC’s Police Foundations program is not only leading a group of Justice Studies students to Nicaragua in February on an international volunteer opportunity, he’s determined to ensure that even those who wouldn’t be able to afford the trip are able to take part.

The nine-day trip, to take place between Feb. 22 to March 2, 2014, is part of a Me to We volunteer travel experience that takes participants to a developing country to volunteer alongside local community members on a development project. There, they will be able to put real faces, names and stories to the impacts of their work; experience a new culture; and make an impact that will last for generations.

Norgate, who initiated the trip earlier this year, believes it will be a life-changing experience for participating students.

“What I like most about  Me to We trips is that the fundamental goal is to not only help others while they’re on the trip, but to plant the seed for them to continue contributing once they return home,” said Norgate.

After an initial presentation from Me to We in September, interested students were asked to submit a one-page essay about why they were interested in going on the trip and what benefit it would be to them and the college community. Students were selected by Norgate and Walter Greczko, chair, School of Justice Studies.

Essays revealed that some of the students have been doing volunteer work locally and wanted the opportunity to make a difference internationally; some had always thought about getting involved in a trip such as this but never had the opportunity. Some applicants have never been on a plane or outside of Canada. One Police Foundations and Civil Engineering student plans on building housing and schools in poor countries after she graduates.

After selecting the group, Norgate is now working on making sure that they are all able to go, regardless of their financial situations. The volunteer trip comes with a price tag of about $3,000 a person. Each had a discussion with Norgate about how much they could contribute, and plans are in the works to raise the rest of the money –$30,000.

A bowling fundraiser has already taken place. The major fundraiser is scheduled for Nov. 21, from 4-9 p.m. at The Core, complete with a silent auction (view event information here). Students are also knocking on doors, seeking support  from local businesses.

The entire group is participating in fundraising, regardless of whether or not they personally require financial assistance. They have committed to attending team meetings, selling tickets and approaching local businesses for support. They will also be giving back to the community through volunteering.

“This isn’t charity. The opportunity for them to help others started the moment they were selected for the trip. They are all working so that the entire group is able to go and sacrificing for the greater good,” said Norgate. “The students are earning it.”

Those who donate money, are not only making it possible for financially-challenged students to participate in the volunteer experience, they’re helping students help others, as they work to make a difference by impacting lives in Nicaragua. With research revealing that a strong majority of Me to We trips have a lasting impact on their participants – who become empowered to contribute in other impactful ways both globally and locally after they return home – there’s no telling how far-reaching the impacts of one’s donation will go.

“It’s the gift that gives twice, and then keeps on giving,” said Norgate.

Among the group of students who have signed up for the trip is Amber Ziomick. The student in the Advanced Law Enforcement and Investigations Graduate Certificate program, who is also executive vice-president (Welland Campus), for the Student Administrative Council, is happy to be a part of it. She was involved in a missions trip to Yraz, Mexico when I was 14 in 2008 and believes the experience has had a lasting impact on her.

“From that day forward, I always believed in giving back to the community, and lending a hand where ever I could. As much as I believe in the good of helping our neighbors in our own backyard, the learning experience I gained abroad was truly transformational,” she said. “The most rewarding part, I believe, is I will be able to see the impact this trip has on students who have never had the opportunity to volunteer abroad.”

Ziomick has been helping Norgate plan the trip for months and has taken a lead role in organizing fundraisers.

“I don’t believe that anyone with the want to lend a helping hand should be limited by their financial situations. I know, as a student, money can always be a struggle, and a trip that costs almost as much as a year’s tuition can be difficult to justify,” she said. “The team bond we are gaining when planning and fulfilling these fundraising events is crucial when a group of 23 are heading to an unfamiliar country.”

How to help

Those interested in making a donation to the Be World Ready – Justice Studies Fund to help provide a life-changing experience for the students may do so in the following ways:

* Cheque – make payable to Niagara College and write Justice Studies on the memo line. Provide your name, address, telephone number and email address.;

* Credit card – call 905-735-2211 x7775 (Visa, MasterCard or America Express);

* Online donations – click here  (mention Justice Studies);

* Pledge forms may be accessed here.

A charitable tax receipt will be provided for donations of $10 or more. Donors of $100 or more will be recognized in the spring edition of the College’s Encore magazine.