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Ducks over geese — new campus favourites

By Rodrigo Verney with files from Julieanne Acosta, February 15 2024—

Jason Ngu is a name that might have changed your winter without you ever noticing. The third-year computer science student with a will to help others through seasonal depression has recently gone viral on the internet for his now iconic army of snow ducks. His small sculptures became a symbol of simple fun and joy in a time when temperatures were hitting the negative twenties to thirties for students all over Canada. The Gauntlet had a chance to sit down with Ngu to talk about the history behind his new nickname, Duck Guy.

Every University of Calgary student knows the toll of seasonal depression. This phantom pain gets obfuscated most of the time as they are already having to deal with exams, assignments and whatever else life throws at them. All of these responsibilities and emotions can accumulate, leaving them in a perpetual state of auto-pilot through their routines as their bodies try to conserve energy. A necessary and normal step to maintain ourselves that unfortunately takes a toll on our mental health. 

Ngu has also been through the exact same thing. Feeling the seasonal depression settling in on a dreaded second week of January, Ngu felt like doing something different. A simple purchase on Amazon and 20 to 30 minutes of silent fun making snow ducks outside of the building where they had most of their classes. 

“Everyone’s got that seasonal depression of things and then I had this one friend, he was going through a tough time specifically. I was kind of bored, so I brought [the duck-making clamps] the day after that on Tuesday. So we went outside the Math Sciences building because that’s where most of our computer science classes are,” said Ngu. 

Ngu and his friend couldn’t have imagined the impact they would have after that day. People on social media couldn’t stop talking about the ducks that were spread all around campus. This media attention helped shed light on the beauty of selflessly helping others and solidifying his fame as the Duck Guy. Just a week later, Ngu would be giving his famous Daily Hive interview.

“I woke up and looked at social media. People posted on Reddit, people posted on Instagram and like Snapchat and all that stuff. By the end of the week, [My friends and I] were just joking. We went for a drink to like chill off at The Den. And then I was on my phone. I checked and the Daily Hive had an article about this and they wanted an interview,” said Ngu

We all know the challenges that come with helping our community. Sometimes, students do have the will and the time to spread positivity for others but are also often going through their own struggles. However, positivity doesn’t have to come in the form of Ngu’s demonstration. It can be the simple things.

“You can always do small, simple things and you might think it’s useless or no one would notice. But I guess since the world is so big, people are bound to notice. You might feel very small in the world, but there’s a lot of small things that make it big. People will appreciate what you do and what you do yourself can affect others and it can bring great change just from something really small,” said Ngu.

These acts of kindness should not only be praised, they should be incentivized. This is what Elisa Cheung the operating partner of the U of C Good Earth Coffeehouse aims to do with the partnership she established with Ngu.

“Our involvement with the Duck Squad started with a simple gesture. Watching them day after day inspired us to make sure they knew their efforts were valued. They left snow ducks right outside our coffeehouse every day. What a wonderful familiarity it was for our guests to see just outside our coffeehouse windows. We learned from Ngu, their mission was to uplift a friend in need. We then further learned about their challenges with broken tools while enduring the cold.  This spurred us to lend a hand by replacing their damaged equipment and offering free hot beverages for future frosty days. We encouraged them to continue spreading kindness and echo our shared belief in the power of small acts of kindness and joy, ” said Cheung.

The partnership is not only about helping those who deserve it, it is about celebrating the people who strive to make a difference even with everything that is going on in their world. This is the centrepiece of Cheung’s vision for the partnership. Students who see Ngu and his friends around campus can ask if they have a Good Earth gift card on them for one small free coffee — or the group might find you and offer it.

“Our involvement with the Duck Squad goes beyond sponsorship.  It is about supporting connections and shared values that bind communities together. Our world can sometimes seem so divided — it is a simple human connection that reminds us there are shared threads of genuine humanity. There is magic in this specialness, ” said Cheung.

Winter has been in the positive digits with no signs of changing soon. However, this doesn’t mean that we saw the end of Duck Guy. The joy that he brought to the U of C community and beyond will live on for far longer. 

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