Sarah Skiffington, uOttawa Chapter President
There’s no doubt that everyone has experienced a significant change in their lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether your post-grad trip got cancelled or your first year of University was spent online in your bedroom, we have all had to give up a lot to slow the spread of Covid-19.
If there are any key takeaways that I’ve learned from this pandemic, it’s that the one thing you don’t have to give up right now is volunteering.
As someone who’s been with the Nyantende Foundation uOttawa Chapter since my first year, I strongly believe in the importance of joining a club in University. You are able to develop friendships and access networking opportunities, while also contributing a meaningful cause, whether locally or internationally. After taking on a leadership role during these uncertain times, I was unsure of how smooth the transition to virtual meetings, attendance, and events would develop. However, my worries were quashed when it came to large turnouts for virtual events and a rising number of applicants during the recruitment process.
The trend became clear: Lockdowns + Quarantine = Lots of free time.
When it came to recruiting for the Nyantende Foundation, I was highly impressed with the amount of students who took an interest in volunteering despite it being remote. Volunteering from home is a great way for students—especially first year students—to spend some extra time during quarantine to connect with other like-minded people and contribute to an amazing social cause. This exchange between the foundation’s cause and student volunteers has really become a symbiotic relationship. Vamika Kaushal, Vice-President of Sponsorship at our uOttawa Chapter, emphasized how online volunteering helped her through her first year:
“[My time with] the Nyantende Foundation not only gave me an opportunity to make a difference from the comfort of my own home, but also made me aware of the issues of access to education in developing countries as well as the efforts being made to address them. In the midst of a pandemic, I was able to make meaningful connections while contributing to society in a way that fits into my everyday life.”
No matter what program you’re in or what your skill sets are, joining a campus club is an amazing way to make a difference. Using our past virtual event as an example, I will highlight how we maintained our vision for our organization while tying it to our new virtual world.
At the Nyantende Foundation, we believe in “Education as Empowerment”. Our mission is to focus on the youngest of those in the Nyantende community by making the opportunity of attending the local private schools feasible. We achieve these goals in subsidizing children’s tuition by A) Crowdfunding Campaigns or B) Raising money through events. Recently, our club decided to combine our mission of helping youth education in the DRC with self-care methods during these difficult times in the pandemic. Subsequently, we held our first Virtual Yoga and Meditation event open for anyone to join. With these pairings in mind, I will share my tips on how to plan a successful virtual yoga event for your club:
1. Choose your (virtual) platform:
Any platform will do, whether it’s Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Instagram Live, etc. We personally used Zoom and purchased the professional account to hold events longer than 40 minutes. *Tip: Check with your university to see if they offer any club funding options that can be used to fund the account.
2. Plan in advance:
Make sure you give yourself and your team enough time to work out all the kinks and set dates for the event. Students are busy creatures, and leaving at least 2 weeks to promote your event is best.
3. Recruit a yoga instructor.
You can’t have a yoga event without one! I recommend that you reach out to any of your friends who may teach yoga or yoga studios to see if there’s instructors that would be willing to teach a class online in front of a group of people.
*Tip: Always discuss details of the events (time/date), with the instructor first. We partnered with Eve Staszczyszyn, Co-Founder of Wellness World and a Mental Health advocate. Eve has a yoga certification and license which is very important when teaching to a group of people. Always ensure your instructor has the proper qualifications.
To ensure you have a high turnout, it’s important to advertise the event on your social media platforms since a majority of people are spending their time online more than ever. Our social media team achieved this by developing graphics to promote on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We posted 2 weeks before the event and got everyone on our team to share on their personal social media accounts regularly to spread the word.
*Marketing Tip: EventBrite. By attaching our EventBrite link in our bio, people had easy access to purchase their tickets online. EventBrite allows attendees to automatically receive the zoom link to their email after purchase. Also, it's a great way to monitor and track ticket sales, and you can set it up to take donations. As our organization is a charity, we specified in our description that there’s a minimum $5 donation per ticket.
Overall, this was one of our most successful virtual events ever with over 25 participants joining in for the class. It was a great way for my team to work together and build reputable skills through the event planning process and taught us how to work in a virtual environment. Most importantly, we were able to provide a safe, relaxing, and affordable yoga class to those who were looking to get some exercise at home or simply needed to connect with others.
One of the added benefits of online events was you’re not limited to those solely in your community—anyone can attend the event worldwide! Finally, and most importantly for the Nyantende Organization, this event allowed us to contribute to and educate those on a great social cause by raising money for our organization to help more children attend schools in the DRC. View the recording of our virtual yoga event below so you can try out some yoga yourself.