Vital People: UVic Multifaith Centre volunteers help students

The UVic Multifaith Centre offers programs for multiple religions for students.

Muslim prayers are one of more than two dozen different programs at the University of Victoria’s Multifaith Centre.

“It is kind of religious duty for me because I like other people and I like to create an environment for them to feel safe, feel at home,” says UVic Multifaith Centre volunteer Gulsen Cok who is the Muslim spiritual care provider.

The team at the Multifaith Centre includes representatives from Anglican, Bahà’í, Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian Science, Hindu, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Presbyterian, Unitarian and United religions.

“I do this because I have been a student and I know how difficult it can be to be a student on campus and I’ve seen through my chaplaincy at UVic that the Multifaith helps all students,”
says Peter Scales, the volunteer Unitarian spiritual care provider.

The Multifaith Centre is open to all UVic students, staff and faculty, as well as the larger community.

“We have 14 spiritual care providers here and what I realized is, we don’t know each other well,” Cok says. “I think this is a key issue. When we know each other all the misconceptions, all the bias go away and we see how we are all the same.”

The centre started in the 60s and 70s as the Catholic, Anglican, and United churches looked to establish an Interfaith Chapel for students. It was renamed the UVic Multifaith Centre in 2019.

“My favourite part of working at Multifaith is working with the team of chaplains that we have because we’re all here for one thing, is to help students,” Scales says.

There are lots of different programs to help students manage stress and anxiety including pet therapy, yoga and meditation.

“It’s a vibrant centre that offers over 25 weekly programs and we help support over 2,000 students every month,” says Rev. Ruth Dantzer, the spiritual care coordinator and Anglican chaplain.

“It’s a real life-line for a lot of students. Students nowadays are up against a lot. It can be a very overwhelming and daunting life stage. There’s a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, so we provide tools and programs here at Multifaith that help support students.”

And that includes over the holidays, when many students are struggling.

“For students who weren’t able to go home, it’s very lonely and it’s a tough time of year for a lot of people who have endured a loss,” Scales says. “Christmas means there’s an empty seat at the table.”

For the volunteer spiritual care providers, knowing that they’re making a difference fills them with joy.

“I love giving back because I’m a helper at heart and I see students who came in feeling uncertain or stressed or homesick and they leave feeling good,” Scales says.

The centre is next to Finnerty Gardens on UVic’s campus.

“UVic Multifaith Centre has a diverse community in unity so when you enter the UVic Multifaith, you feel welcomed, heard and listened to,” Cok says.

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