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Lace up your skates for a good cause

By Michaella Francom on February 6, 2014

What could be more Canadian than a game of ODR? How about a friendly tournament that combines outdoor hockey with fundraising for a socially-conscious good cause? This Saturday at Brewer Park boasts exactly that event: Carleton University’s EWB Winter Classic. Apartment613 got in touch with one of the organizers, Sebastian Mol, to get the skinny on this shinny.

Apartment 613: You’re currently one of the presidents (along with Alex Serada) of the Carleton University chapter of Engineers Without Borders. How did you first get involved with this organization?

Sebastian Mol: I first got involved with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) during the summer of 2011 at one of their bi-weekly summer meetings, tagging along with a friend that had already been involved for a while. Coming from a small town, I had never really been exposed to international development at all. I had no idea what Fair Trade was, and I was ignorant to the many problems in the charity sector. This first meeting was the first real introduction I had to something that I now feel is incredibly important, and that is the empowerment of all peoples.

Your organization is concerned with raising Canadians’ awareness about how our domestic actions impact people elsewhere in the world. Do you find it’s hard to convince people that small-scale individual actions can make a difference?

That is an incredible question, and it actually perfectly encapsulates one of the biggest struggles we as a chapter at Carleton University often face. The work that EWB does is not always tangible, and it’s not always easy to see the impact that our actions have overseas. Because of the unique approach that EWB takes towards development, it is often hard to see how small-scale individual actions truly impact others and make a difference.

What kind of initiatives do you think are most effective when spreading your message?

Living in Ottawa, we have a big focus on advocacy, engaging MPs and MPPs in advocating for Foreign Aid. This past week, while the federal budget is being evaluated and constructed, we have been collecting petitions to ask the Canadian Government to maintain Canada’s Foreign Aid budget where it is. The advocacy initiative aims at reaching out to not only the Canadian Government, but also the community around Carleton and Ottawa.

Another quite effective initiative that we have is our Junior Fellowship Program. Each year we raise funds to send a Junior Fellow (JF) overseas to work in one of EWB Canada’s ventures in Sub-Saharan Africa. The JF spends months preceding the placement learning about the work they will be doing. They then spend three months overseas working in the venture they are placed it, adapting to the culture and working with people within the community to learn and grow together. As they come back to Canada, they transition into the role of Return Junior Fellow (RJF), and dedicate time to helping connect their University’s Chapter with the work that EWB does in Africa.

This weekend’s ‘Winter Classic’ is in support of RUBR. What can you tell us about it?

RUBR is an initiative that began in 2011 in support of rubber production in Liberia. The rubber used is tapped naturally from trees in Liberia, so not only are we supporting the Liberian economy by providing the rubber farmers with a fair wage and good living conditions, but we are also supporting the environment. Hockey pucks are generally made of synthetic rubber, derived from petroleum, but much like Maple Syrup, the rubber used in RUBR hockey pucks are tapped from Liberian rubber trees.

As Liberia’s main export, it seemed obvious to combine the main driver for the Liberian economy with Canada’s favourite pastime. RUBR aims to provide jobs and create opportunities for redevelopment in Liberia, while allowing Canadians to invest in a familiar product.

We are choosing to use RUBR hockey pucks in our Winter Classic to show support for ethical practices in our everyday lives. RUBR is the first, and so far, the only ethical hockey puck we have come across. We thought that combining an annual hockey tournament with RUBR hockey pucks was a great way to promote ethical choices.

ODR is probably the quintessential Canadian winter experience. But that also means a lot of hockey-related fundraising activities pop up each year. Do you feel the event gets less attention because it’s in competition with so many others?

There are many ODR hockey related events, especially in February. We have been competing with Hockey Day in Canada for the past two years. That being said, I don’t think any lack of attention comes from other hockey-related events, but rather a lack of people-power on our end. EWB Carleton and our Annual Winter Classic is limited by our small numbers, but that does not stop us from hosting an incredible day full of fun, friendly competition, and ethical choices.

If someone has a pair of skates but isn’t so hot on the ice can they still participate?

Because of the friendly nature of our hockey tournament, the only required equipment are skates, a hockey stick, warm clothes, and gloves! It is a friendly tournament, and players are not required to have any skill with hockey. We do have strict no-contact rule, as well as a no puck-raising rule. We play with no goalies, but flip the nets and turn them backwards so that they are not easy to score on. Unfortunately we have a strict eight-team slot so that we may create a fair schedule : we are unable to accommodate drop-in players.

So what about people who just want to be spectators or donate to the cause without playing?

Not only are spectators welcome, but they are encouraged! In the past there have been snowbanks on the side of the rink that people can sit on, so bring your snowpants! There is also a great outdoor speed skating rink just opposite the one we’ll be playing on [if you want to do some skating].

The bulk of day-of fundraising comes from generous donations from the incredible people that come out to support our Winter Classic. Being sponsored by Bridgehead in Ottawa allows us to provide [at a concession table] Fair Trade Coffee and Tea, as well as our long-time partnership with Camino bringing us Fair Trade Chocolate and Fair Trade Hot Chocolate. Come out and support the EWB All-Stars! (Or any other one of your favourite hockey teams). Or just come to learn about some of the work that EWB Carleton does!

The EWB Winter Classic kicks off at 10:00am this Saturday February 8th at Brewer Park and there’s still room for one more team! Teams consist of at least 4 players, with a registration cost of $50/team. Games are 4-on-4, with at least one woman on the ice at all times. For more information or to sign up check out their Facebook page.

*If you’d like to sign the petition mentioned regarding the Foreign Aid budget, the deadline is Thursday February 6th.

See you at the rink!