BY MIKE STROMME
The Doon Presbyterian Church is open to helping out Conestoga students in any way it can. This includes providing a space for musicians to practise and using their kitchen to make home-cooked meals.
”We want to be an option for students to come to if they have a need, whatever it is,” said Aaron Hooper, the church’s outreach/Christian education co-ordinator. “We want to help serve the community, serve the people that need the help.”
Founded in 1853, the Doon Presbyterian Church has been a staple of the Doon community since its inception. Being located less than a kilometre from the Doon campus, the church, in the past, has let students use their facility for bagpipe practice, contributed to the food bank, assisted with helping international students get integrated into the community and even provided a Thanksgiving dinner for those in need.
“We’re also here to help students if say, they need a ride to the bank or they need to go to a doctor’s office downtown Waterloo or something,” said Hooper. “We’re here to help students in many different ways, especially when winter hits.”
In a congregation of around 300 people, the church’s pastor, Darrell Clarke, estimates that 10-15 per cent consists of Conestoga students, the majority of whom are international students. These students come from Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, South Korea, China and India.
”Outside of maybe three students, the vast majority are international students,” said Clarke. ”It’s the international students who seem to search for that sense of community with us.”
Helping international students is a major part of how the church impacts student life at the Doon campus. Providing students who come to Canada to study abroad with a sense of community helps international students ease into Canadian culture and helps with culture shock.
“Sometimes they get disconnected from the rest of the community at Conestoga,” said Hooper. “Sometimes doing something cultural, such as Chinese New Year for example, can help them feel like they’re able to embrace their own culture. Then, also inviting them to things that are traditionally Canadian, such as Thanksgiving dinner, helps.”
With international students coming from all over the world, culture shock is common. Clarke saw it first-hand at a Christmas dinner the church hosted at the student residence building last year.
“There was one student from Nigeria who came to the Christmas dinner at residence last year,” said Clarke. “He had just arrived from Nigeria that day. He actually came to the residence building to be picked up by the family that he was staying with. He was going through culture shock, arriving in Canada in frigid temperatures.”
The Doon Presbyterian Church is a big advocate of community involvement at the student level. Clarke and Hooper can be seen at CSI-run events such as the Pond Party and Frost Week. They also have a few ideas of their own for student social gatherings, such as “Feast the Street” and a coffee shop near campus for students to gather and socialize. Feast the Street is an idea that Clarke came up with in concert with some of the local landlords where students all gather at a local student housing property for a big barbecue during frosh week.
“What I’d like to see here is community life,” said Clarke. “I will support any effort to bolster the life of the student.”
For more information, or to contact the Doon Presbyterian Church, visit their website at www.doonpc.com. Or, look for Doon Presbyterian Church on Facebook.