Sometimes, you can stop something and begin it again very easily … like riding a bicycle. Unfortunately, this is not the case when restarting a campus pro-life club. The challenges of restarting a club that had previously held official club status and was very active can be difficult and sometimes frustrating.

This happened at the University of Western Ontario (UWO). The campus had two very active pro-life clubs, one on the main campus and the other at King’s College, for over 20 years. This particular campus is especially hostile to the pro-life message and was known to take any opportunity to quash the efforts of a pro-life club. With forces active to stop the club from being productive, and the reality that students graduate, the club’s official status was lost.

Pro-life leaders on campus fought with determination against a hostile environment for years, but both clubs eventually ran into the dilemma of little to no activity and so, lost their statuses.

As it stands, regardless of students meeting the requirements, the UWO has denied official club status for a pro-life club on main campus. New initiatives will start again in the fall, but the people involved know it will be a fight.

Meanwhile, although King’s College’s club lost its status due to inactivity, pro-lifers have recently gone through the process of re-activating the club. The organizations NCLN and Y-HOPE (Youth Helping Others through Pro-Life Education) actively contacted pro-lifers on the UWO campus and were able to stir up interest for a gathering on Dec. 9, 2005. At this pro-life “brainstorming coffee house” meeting, with only a week of preparation, they were able to gather over 10 interested students, including pro-lifers enrolled in the faculties of law and medicine. Other attendees included UWO alumni, seminarians from St. Peter’s Seminary, executive members of the London Right to Life Association and students from Fanshawe College’s pro-life club. As a result, Sarah Gleeson asked what she could do and is currently the president of King’s College’s club, “Live for Life.” The club was able to host Stephanie Gray during its first term of existence. Gray sparked quite a controversy and was welcomed by protesters. In the upcoming year, the club hopes to become more and more active.

Y-HOPE recognizes the importance of actively seeking out individuals on campuses and alumni to link like-minded people together in pro-life campus initiatives. They believe that there are always students and alumni who want to be actively pro-life by educating and motivating students on campus. In order to achieve this goal, one just has to find them, equip them with the right tools for activism and connect them with the local pro-life community for resources and support. Thanks to this philosophy, King’s College is now beginning the process of building its numbers and activism.

NCLN (the National Campus Life Network) aims to help campus pro-life clubs in various ways. When it comes to re-starting a club, it recognizes the unique challenges and face them head on. NCLN keeps a record of the history of all campus pro-life clubs. It provides contacts for campuses to connect students who may be experiencing similar problems. Last, and certainly not least, Sarah Buckle, director of NCLN, notes that her organization “also provide(s) encouragement and support.” Oftentimes, a director will visit a campus to train new leaders, along with providing resources and event ideas.

As “Live for Life” was getting started, the group had some help from a neighbouring school. Fanshawe College’s club, Fanshawe Students For Life (FSFL), founded in December 2005, has given support by helping with ideas and running events.  Nathanael Mooij, co-founder and co-president, notes how “it is very important for clubs to work and stick together (as) having larger numbers or even just people you know helping out gives a tremendous confidence boost.”

It is extremely important for current leaders on campuses to seek new leaders to train as their final years approach. It is much easier for an administration or student union to deny official club status to a brand new club than to revoke the status of a club that has been active already. The paperwork is also much less when a club simply continues to be active. To start a club takes more time, more paper and more energy, which take away from efforts that could be used to bring the culture of life to campus. Gleeson hopes “to choose leaders for the following years in second semester” to allow them to work with current leaders. As with all campus pro-life clubs, the aim is to get new people involved each year in order to not lose club status.

A sign of a true leader is one who recognizes when her knowledge and responsibilities need to be passed on to younger students who will determine the future of the club. With campus clubs growing across Canada, and the network among them increasing, the culture of life is spreading like wildfire.

For more information on NCLN, visit its website at www.ncln.ca.

Y-HOPE is planning a series of seminars for the winter of 2007, geared towards campus leaders. To find out more contact NCLN as well.