Handmade with Love provides handmade gifts to graduate students taking parental leave

Monday, July 22, 2019

University of Waterloo Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) staff knit for graduate students on parental leave to let students know they are supported beyond their academic life.

Staff in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) have been busy crocheting and knitting for future Warriors after launching the Handmade with Love program. Graduate students who are recipients of the parental leave bursary are offered a handmade gift, which could be a baby blanket, booties, or a hat, from a staff member. It all started when a staff member in the GSPA taught herself to crochet and needed an outlet for her finished works, and has expanded. The GSPA now takes donations of handmade items from staff across campus.

baby shoes

We chatted with Miranda Bilotta, who is the Manager of Graduate Financial Aid and Awards Programs to find out more. “It’s about the personal touch, to let students know that we are here for them in their academic career, but that we also value their life outside of graduate studies,” she says. Handmade with Love recognizes that many graduate students are international students or live away from their traditional support networks. “The program recognizes that becoming a parent or growing your family is such a big moment in an individual’s life.” Miranda points out that the program makes their office more welcoming and open, so that students know they can talk to GSPA staff about anything they are going through.

The students who receive items from the Handmade with Love program are recipients of the parental leave bursary and often later receive the daycare bursary, also offered through GSPA.  Many of them say without theses bursaries they would have had to choose between being a parent or being a student. The handmade items add to that feeling of excitement and gratitude the students feel for being able to have both.

When we asked Miranda what she hopes is the long- term impact of the program, she says she “hopes that it inspires more of us to look at students beyond their ID number. Students are people beyond their academic life, with challenges and milestones just like anyone else and we should take time to celebrate everyone’s happy moments!”

The Handmade with Love story is one of many that demonstrates our community’s commitment to finding new and interesting ways to foster wellness on campus. To learn more about how you can be involved in initiatives that aim to increase wellness in our community or read other inspiring stories, visit the Healthy Waterloo Collaborative website.

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