Humans of McMaster: Celina Ruan
The Silhouette: Please introduce yourself.
Celina Ruan: My name is Celina. I am in my third year of the Honours Biochemistry program. I'm involved in a couple clubs at McMaster [University] such as the MSU SWHAT service. I'm also a part of the Wellness Outreach Team for the Student Wellness Center.
What is SWHAT?
SWHAT is a service under the MSU and it stands for Student Walk Home Attendant Team. We are a group of volunteer walkers that help walk students home. It is a free, confidential and safe service that provides free walks or [accompanied] bus rides to anyone in the McMaster community, on or off campus. We have a service area of around half an hour and we operate seven days a week from 7 pm to 1 am. We can walk anyone home during that time. Say someone has a night class and they don't want to walk them alone, they can request a walk ahead of time or just call in and we'll send off walkers with flashlights and walkie-talkies. Our services are to make sure everyone gets a safe walk home.
Why did you become involved with SWHAT?
I got involved in SWHAT in my second year in the winter semester. I applied to be a walker. I started in that semester and I thought it was just a really great community. All the [executive members] and other walkers are all really nice. It was also just a really nice space to go in the evenings, just to play board games or work while being there to bring safety to the community. Then, in my third year, I saw the opportunity to apply to be an exec. I thought the service that SWHAT provides was really important, especially because there have been some instances on or near campus that have affected the safety of McMaster students. It'd be really important to help provide a sense of overall safety and wellness to my classmates and other people in the McMaster community.
Some students are worried that they are too awkward or that it will be weird to have two strangers walking home with them. What do you have to say about that?
I think that can definitely be a hesitation for a lot of people to start using SWHAT. You might think: "I don't know if it'll be convenient. It'll be awkward." But we can promise you that we'll try to match your energy. If you prefer a quiet walk, we can join you on a quiet walk. But if you would like a conversation, we have two friendly and welcoming volunteers that can provide that for you on your walk home.
We've had walks from campus to Shoppers Drug Mart, anywhere on campus or one of our most frequent requests is to parking lot M. I think some of the most common misconceptions are how many times you can use it. We are a free service and there is no limit to how many times you can request a walk. Our aim is just to provide campus safety.
How would a student book a SWHAT walk?
The usual process from start to finish on the SWHAT walk is pretty straightforward. So we get some requests using our Microsoft Teams form. So that can be booked ahead of time but a lot of our requests come from calls during our operating hours. You can call our dispatcher and we'll take down your name, time, location and even the gender of your choice for the walkers.
Any other comments?
Just don't be afraid to request a walk. Our service is there just so you can use it. We're active seven days a week and we're more than happy to provide a walk. Later in the fall semester, we'll be having an event called the Walkathon. For one month, we will select a charity or a nonprofit organization. For every walk that is requested, we will be giving $1 to that charity. If you're looking to walk somewhere and would like a partner, call SWHAT!