X-Project Calls for Volunteers

 
 

Lend a helping hand to one of StFX's finest organizations

Are you interested in deepening your understanding of issues that impact local Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities? Are you seeking ways to combat inequity and injustice of systemic racism in real and significant ways? Would you like to build friendships with neighbouring community members, youth leaders and peers? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, X-Project is the place for you to volunteer.

So, what exactly is X-Project? Well, it all began in 1965 when Joe Webb, a recent StFX graduate, was given the position of teaching principal in the Lincolnville school. At the time, Lincolnville, a historic Black loyalist community, faced many inequities along with considerable racism in the surrounding areas that meant that job opportunities, education, and support systems were limited. During his time as principal, Joe noticed that his students were having difficulty completing their homework. He was determined to find some way to help them out. He called his friend Rollie Chiasson to discuss the issue, and realized that many of his friends who were still in university might be able to come out and help some of his students. He also spoke with community members to discuss how to best go forward with this idea. The students he contacted posted a sign just outside of meal hall calling for volunteers willing to drive to the Lincolnville school and help out. Their hopes were that at least a couple of people would show up at the designated date and time. It was a pleasant surprise when 13 people showed up, enthusiastic and willing to help out. 

Around the same time, Margie Boyle, Kay Cameron, and Joan Dillon were travelling to Lincolnville three times a week to teach a pottery class. They had been inspired to do this after the tragic passing of Giles Gaudry, an itinerant artist who had begun teaching pottery in the area as a way to give back to the community that welcomed him in. These women continued his legacy of teaching pottery with the help of Mother St. Phillip, Father Anthony, and men from the Third Order of St. Augustine’s. They not only taught pottery class, but as relationships with the community grew stronger, they helped to create Father Anthony’s ABC Band as well as the cubs and scouts programs. They eventually needed to recruit more volunteers and soon a group of about 30 people were coming down, along with members of the Sisters of St. Martha.

Though initially the group offering homework help and the group doing pottery stayed separate, eventually the two groups decided to merge so that transportation could be shared. Joan Dillon negotiated a bus deal with Dr. Remi Chiasson, Superintendent of schools who granted them the weekly use of a very large bus at a reasonable price and soon the whole group began traveling together. At the time there were approximately 98 children and about 30 families in Lincolnville. Though the two groups joined forces primarily to share transportation, they quickly began to share programming ideas and worked with students and adults to promote literacy, offer cubs and beavers, provided recreational programs, and more. In March of 1966, the group of volunteers sat down and wrote a constitution that formed the society now known as X-Project. The “X” in X-Project was actually chosen to represent the importance of operating as an “unknown factor”- that is, not asking for recognition or going into communities with a personal agenda, but rolling up your sleeves, listening and understanding community needs, and working alongside them with determination in a quiet manor. So, the core intentions of this group were quite simple; only go to the community if invited and welcomed, respect the wishes of the community and respond directly to the community’s requests.

Over the years X-Project quickly grew to include more communities and more members. The group began to organize many community building events including well-attended teach-ins that focused on Indigenous issues in 1968 and the impact of racism on African Nova Scotians in 1969. X-Project has held numerous Saturday programs, bowling days, swimming days, skating parties, youth leadership weekends, and literally thousands of nights in communities. In more recent years, X-Project has helped to bring some important keynote speakers to campus including Wab kinew in 2015, Senator Sinclair in 2016, Buffy Sainte-marie in 2017, and Desmond Cole in 2018, in keeping with their long tradition of discussing important ideas relating to equity and justice. Thousands of St.F.X. students have volunteered over the past 50+ years and hundreds of community members have been consistently involved since the beginning. What began as a small group of students committed to working alongside one local community to support children’s learning has grown into a phenomenal, strong family of students, alumni, youth, and community members all working together toward common goals. 

 Photo: Lisa Lunney Borden

Photo: Lisa Lunney Borden

Today, X-Project works with five African-Canadian and Mi’kmaw communities in the surrounding area; Paqtnkek, Pictou Landing, Antigonish, Sunnyville and Lincolnville. We continue to offer small group educational assistance, recreational and leadership programs for the youth in these communities. Each week a number of student volunteers board vans and buses and head out to the communities to work with the children in their homes or in community centers, helping with homework, playing educational games, doing activities and being a mentor. Also, approximately four times each term, youth from the communities are brought to the St.F.X. campus for recreational programs such as Sports days, Halloween and Christmas Parties, swimming, bowling, and skating. Each year we also work with the teens in the communities to provide youth leadership programs. This often involves several Saturday trips in to the university to meet as a group and participate in activities and workshops that help to develop leadership skills. The youth leaders also help to plan workshops and activities for their own communities and act as leaders for recreational programs and weekly educational assistance. Each March, the youth leaders come to St.F.X. to participate in the youth leadership weekend where they engage in activities and workshops that they have helped to plan throughout the year.

X-Project continues to be almost entirely run by volunteers and the success of X-Project rests solely on the interest, initiative, and commitment of students on this campus. Over the years it has become inexplicably clear that both the student volunteers and the community youth gain so much from being involved with X-Project. Volunteering with X-Project gives you the opportunity to learn about yourself and others, take breaks from the overwhelming university life, foster beautiful relationships, connect with communities in a meaningful way and work towards common goals of greater equity and justice.

We’re always looking for more volunteers to join the family! If this sounds like something you’d love to do then why not become part of the crew of students that heads out to communities weekly or helps out during the various planned events on campus? Perhaps you know all about X-Project already and are keen to take on a leadership role. You can still apply to be part of our Student Branch executive using this form https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=x6tGjAuWJEGJUBYosrGS-VaWTnL0S8xOvtUiLOfuj2BUMFlDR0M2N1JCODdDUlZRV0JaSlVHMVNOSS4u. Available volunteer positions include community coordinators, youth leadership coordinators, saturday program coordinators, transportation coordinator and office manager.  

If you’d like to get involved or want some more information, just e-mail us at xproject@stfx.ca or lborden@stfx.ca! We will also be society night on September 6th and you can join us for our volunteer orientation on September 20th! You can also find us on Facebook (fb.me/stfxproject), Instagram (@stfxproject), and Twitter (@stfxproject) to stay in the loop!