15 Community Building and Engagement Beyond McMaster

Student Open Circles Engaging with Disability Community Through Volunteerism

Symbol of community engagement beyond McMaster with 4 individuals in circles with a globe in the circle of the larger circle in the middle. Text belows reads 'created by adrien coquet from the noun project'

Student Open Circles recruits and coordinates more than 300 McMaster students to volunteer as small groups each week at social service agencies in Hamilton. Each group engages in weekly reflection on social issues related to their placement. At our placement with Conway Opportunity Homes, volunteers assisted and interacted with residents living with physical disabilities through weekly visits. At our placement with the Learning Disabilities Association of Halton-Hamilton’s Reading Rocks program, volunteers tutored 6–12-year-old children who struggle with the attainment of early literacy skills individually twice per week. Over the course of the year, 95 volunteers gave 2,683 hours (about 3 and a half months) of service in these two programs.

Contributors: Open Circle

Meet My Hamilton in 2022

In 2019, the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA) piloted an in-person intergenerational social program that aimed to build relationships across the generations, improve social connectivity for both older adults and students, and breakdown stereotypes about the age groups. Due to COVID-19, this program was launched in a virtual setting as “Meet My Hamilton”(a hybrid opportunity for community building). In 2022, MIRA began to transition this program to a hybrid format. To date, over 90 undergraduate students and 30 older adults have participated. This program continues to enable people to meet across the ages and build community. The virtual platform has remained popular with both students and older adults, even as we have reintroduced in-person programming. Virtual programming has been more accessible to older adults, who report that it can be difficult to get to campus, especially in winter weather.

Contributors: Meet My Hamilton, McMaster Institute for Research on Aging, and experiential learning students from the Department of Health, Aging and Society


Resources for Coaches in the Special Olympics Ontario and Canada Network

The aim of the multi-phased Online Coaching for Athletes with Intellectual Disability project was to develop an educational resource for coaches within the Special Olympics Ontario and Canada network to learn about using online tools to enhance and connect with their athletes. Initiated at the start of the pandemic, this project was completed in September 2022. It used a participant-driven approach in which athletes with intellectual disability were key players in developing and testing the resource. Coaches struggled to use online technology at the outset of the pandemic. However, with support from the co-created educational resource, coaches noted benefits to online coaching sessions. It was also determined that use of a hybrid program (in-person and online) could both save money and time, while also increasing social connections and community engagement.

Contributors: Dr. Krystn Orr (Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Social Work, McMaster University), and Dr. Ann Fudge Schormans (School of Social Work, McMaster University)

L’Arche Inclusion Coffeehouse Carries On

On March 15th, 2022, L’Arche presented to McMaster’s 1st Year Integrated Business and Humanities course class about how L’Arche Hamilton’s Inclusion Coffeehouse engages with the community to bring positive social change to the community. Inclusion Coffeehouse is a part of L’Arche Hamilton and is a place where people with and without intellectual disabilities create a community coffeehouse where all can gather and learn about each other.

Many students engaged in the presentation and learned about some of the key stakeholders involved in bringing this dream into reality. This included engagement and support from the local neighbourhood, the City of Hamilton for the cafe space at Bernie Morelli Recreation Centre, the Edith H. Turner Foundation Fund at Hamilton Community Foundation, and beyond. We discussed the priorities of Our Future Hamilton’s plan and how Inclusion Coffeehouse is a concrete example of those priorities.

Contributors: Paige McIsaac (L’Arche Hamilton), and Rachel Roy (McMaster University)


A white older man wearing a mask and clear gloves is smiling at the camera with one hand resting on the counter of the Inclusion Coffeehouse.
A white older man wearing a mask and clear gloves is smiling at the camera with one hand resting on the counter of the Inclusion Coffeehouse.


The Annual Accessibility and Disability Inclusion Update Copyright © 2022 by McMaster University. All Rights Reserved.

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