From a delegate’s perspective: Queen’s Conference on Philanthropy (QCOP)

Two days later, a dozen speakers and panelists broadened my view on apathy, passion and rage.

Speakers at the sixth annual Queen’s Conference on Philanthropy (QCOP) ranged from Canadian Olympic team wrestler Ohenewa Akuffo to former child soldier Michel Chikwanine. Other speakers included Russ McLeod, chief operations director of Me to We, Adil Dhalla, director of culture at the Centre for Social Innovation, Shawn Cheung, founder of Raising the Village.

The conference opened with an odd metaphor: one of the co-chairs, Christie Park, Comm ’14, described QCOP as her baby finally being born, after nine months of intensive planning and stressful nights, she added. It was a strangely heartwarming description that bespoke of the organizer’s enthusiasm for the weekend.

QCOP, more than anything, appeared from the outset as a labour of love.

Principal Woolf followed with a story about Alfred Bader, a fitting example of a man from meager beginnings and generous heart that has contributed much to the Queen’s community.

Social worker and founder of Blueprint for Life Steve Leafloor, ArtSci ’83, better known as Bboy Buddha, spoke in an off-the-cuff manner that demanded attention. He was engaging in his raw truthful tone. Interspersed with moments of humour and music reminiscent of the 70s, his golden era of roller dancing, he provoked laughter from the audience.

On a more solemn note, he recalled how his own personal experience of bullying prompted his teenage delinquency and drug abuse.

At 16 years old, he stood at four foot seven. Bruises coloured the entirety of his arms, while taunts were thrown as he was stuffed into the depths of trashcans. Anger and rage quickly spiraled into robberies and drug usage. That was before he discovered dance.

Dance ultimately saved him, allowing him a way to express his frustrations.

While some in the audience were moved to tears, it was the travel stories up north to remote Inuit communities that were the most touching. In a span of five days, he flipped regular programming into a dance intensive from the hours of 9 to 5 p.m.

Dance becomes a new mode of uplifting spirits. Dance also became the universal language, transcending language barriers between English and Inuit. He explained that children he encountered had often faced traumatic experiences, whether it was a recent suicide in the community or family abuse.

With his overwhelming positivity and devotion to helping others, speakers like Leafloor represent life as an opportunity to effect change.

Speakers came from all walks of life, whether the corporate or non-profit sector, and emphasized an underlining message that money is not the only means of philanthropy. Striving to effect change can come in other forms beyond the typical donation.

Furthermore, speakers shared various other stories of the impact of storytelling, sometimes travel, but always personal transformation. It was an invigorating weekend that contrasted with the bleak and cold weather outside.

A conference wouldn’t be complete without a challenge and this year saw the addition of a new way to engage delegates in a “pay it forward” experience. Divided into randomized team, we were asked to think of an impactful and positive way to spend 10 dollars in a hour and a half.

Teams showcased ingenuity by delivering free gifts on the streets: flowers, candy and hot chocolate with caring notes. Others left mittens with a note attached, encouraging the finder to do a good deed in return. The time constraint and the reluctance of some people to accept gifts from total strangers proved challenging for some. To the typical person, not used to a random kind act, polite rejection was the common response. Perseverance was key. One group mustered the strength to push a stuck car to safety – showing good deeds aren’t based on money.

At just over one hundred dollars, the conference’s registration fee is cheaper than most. QCOP offers an invigorating way to perceive the world from corporate to grassroot approaches, but more importantly emphasizes the importance of adding generosity and empathy to one’s everyday life.

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