This story is part of the #UWCommunity National Volunteer week series, profiling University of Waterloo members who give their time and talent by volunteering in our community.
Ryan Connell has an infectious positive energy.
Currently the Communications Officer for the University of Waterloo’s Student Success Office and part-time student in the Social Development Studies program, Ryan cares a great deal about making life better for those around him. Whether it be through a simple kind gesture or a carefully constructed campaign, he acknowledges the value of sharing his skills with others and spreading positivity throughout different communities.
“We’re so wrapped up in our day to day lives that we don’t always take the time to think about the small things that can really make a difference for somebody else.”
Ryan marries his professional communications background and his eagerness to give back to the community in which he resides with a simple desire to make the world a nicer, kinder place. He especially cares about working with vulnerable populations, such as at risk youth and diversity groups, working towards helping them to feel valued, supported, and heard. Most of all, he wants to share his outreach expertise with causes that inspire him, which is why he regularly gives his time to volunteer at local community-driven organizations, such as The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation (The KWCF).
The KWCF exists to improve the quality of life in the Kitchener-Waterloo area by building our community assets (including knowledge, relationships, and dollars), investing in our community’s greatest needs, and providing leadership on key community issues. One of The KWCF’s major initiatives is their annual Random Act of Kindness Day® (RAK Day), which Ryan plays a large part in organizing, helping to initiate outreach opportunities throughout the region.
“For me, why I connect so much with it is because every interaction you have with someone is an opportunity to make a difference.”
He meets with The Foundation once a month, but is consistently looking for ways to engage the campus and external communities on a year-round basis. His volunteer role with The KWCF has grown alongside the growth of RAK Day, and he is so thrilled that the University of Waterloo has become a major partner in running this campaign on our campus, inviting students to feel more a part of the community.
“I love that the university takes RAK Day up a step and thinks about how we can give back outwardly to our community. I just love the pure intent. It’s something anybody could do.”
The KWCF believes that our community will someday be able to come together to solve the major issues we face, openly and collaboratively. Before our community can tackle issues like poverty, food security, and homelessness, we must first empower individuals to step up and make the change they want to see happen. Rosemary Smith, CEO of The KWCF believes in the power of people:
“Everyone has a different skill set to bring to the table, we just need to be reminded that our skills are valued and necessary to be able to make our community a great place to live, work, play and raise a family.”
The staff at The KWCF are proud to work alongside a hardworking volunteer like Ryan:
“Volunteering is a simple thing that each of us can do make an impact. Ryan has dedicated his time and energy to help The KWCF make this community one where everyone feels like they belong, and that they can make a lasting difference.”
Ryan has also been lending his time and skills to the AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area since 2008 and used to sit on the board of directors for Tri-Pride: an annual LGBTQ festival in Waterloo Region. He knows how important it is to give back to his community, and is always looking for ways to share his talents and help support organizations he cares about.
“When you feel a greater sense of belonging to your community, the more likely you are to volunteer your time, or maybe more likely to write a cheque to an organization, or donate to a worthy cause. It makes such an enormous impact and it builds so much community.”
Do you volunteer or know of someone who should be recognized? Help celebrate the many University of Waterloo volunteers by sharing their stories and positive impact online with #UWCommunity and #NVW2015, or contact us via email.