When most people picture a nurse, they don’t typically envision a person standing on a snowy street corner in -15C weather handing out socks.
But that’s exactly what two CNC nursing students and one of their instructors do twice a month, along with several other volunteers.
Spare a Pair is a community initiative, where volunteers collect donations of basic living necessities and hand them out to people in need in Prince George. CNC nursing students Veronique Gauthier and Danika Serafin started the initiative as part of an assignment in one of their classes.
The assignment required students to do a needs assessment of a population anywhere in Canada. Working with the community, not just for the community, students had to create a culturally safe plan to address those needs.
While many students chose faraway communities, Veronique and Danika focused on Prince George. The two handed out soup and hot chocolate to people living in the streets in downtown Prince George and asked them what they needed most.
One man told Danika he needed socks so she gave him the ones she was wearing.
“Reflecting on that evening, we were taken aback by how many people went without basics in our own backyard,” said Veronique. “How come people were walking around in -15C without socks on? Why were women having to use newspaper and paper towels as feminine hygiene products? Why were people sleeping blanketless in the street?”
Seeing what just a pair of socks off their own feet could do for one person, the students knew they had the ability to make powerful changes and be a positive influence in their community. Spare a Pair became their way of taking a leadership role in addressing the needs of marginalized individuals.
“It’s also a way to create awareness and educational opportunities, generate volunteer experiences, break down barriers and reduce stigma,” Veronique said.
Spare a Pair volunteers now set up downtown one or two times a month to hand out socks, blankets, backpacks, toothbrushes, etc. – whatever donations the organization receives and people may need.
“We have had an overwhelming response from the community,” said Veronique. “We’ve had so much support and donations – in the form of material items, money, and time.”
CNC Nursing Instructor Anita Muchala, who is now part of Spare a Pair, was the instructor of the class in which Veronique and Danika started the initiative.
“This project is a great example of how CNC’s nursing program connects what students learn in the classroom with real life people, and their need for care and respect,” Anita said. “Danika and Veronique have a passion for helping people. They are advocates – honest and ethical. These are the types of nurses we want in our community, and CNC aims to provide.”
Anita said a huge part of why she became a nurse was the opportunity to help people in the community where she grew up.
CNC’s nursing program works closely with community counterparts to allows students to get exposure in specialize areas such as clinical works, hospital and long-term care.
“A community college program is more like a family,” Antia said. “Because of small class sizes, you really get to know your instructors and peers, and develop strong relationships. Now that I’m an instructor, I get to create the same type of structure, relationships and opportunities with and for my students – like Danika and Veronique. My current colleagues were my mentors.