As a person who has always been passionate about helping others, volunteering has played a significant role in my life. Through volunteering, I have met some of my closest friends, had memorable experiences and learned about myself as an individual. Volunteering has been a big part of my high school years and it has never been about fulfilling the community hour requirement and because of this, I don’t have an accurate number of my volunteering contribution. I do know that my volunteer hour contribution probably reaches close to a 1,000 in last two years. Volunteering has allowed me to gain valuable skills in communicating and working with others. Without committing time to giving back to the community, I would not be the individual I am today.
My volunteering really started in elementary school as I always use to volunteer to help out the teacher and the school with anything they needed help with. As an immigrant in Canada who moved around a few times, I always tried to volunteer to help out the new kids. I knew how it felt to be new and thought that I could really help. On multiple occasions, teachers asked me personally to help integrate the new kids into school.
However, it wasn’t until high school when I became really passionate about volunteering. I joined several school clubs dedicated to social causes such as Free the Children, Amnesty International and Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in my grade 9 year. I was astonished at the impact I could have when few friends and I collected about a 100 items for the local food bank on Halloween through “Halloween for Hunger”. At the end of the grade 9 year, I helped organize a change drive for the local food bank and was able to get a taste of the leadership side to volunteering. This small initiative helped me realize that I wanted to do more and be a leader in these initiatives. I also volunteered at the Teen Library Council in my grade 9 year and met many students who were very involved in the community; they inspired me to take initiative.
Over the summer, I decided that I was going to get more involved and make the most out of my summer. This was probably one of the best decisions I have made in my high school career. I joined the Mayor’s Youth Team, the Brampton Youth Advisory Committee, Credit Valley’s Conservation Youth Program and even started my own Council! Through the Mayor’s Youth Team, I was able to meet a Korean youth delegation and learn about their culture. It was an absolutely amazing experience because I made new friends from across the world and got to try new things I wouldn’t have had a chance to otherwise. I learned a few breakdancing moves, tried some Korean food, was introduced to K-pop just to name a few things. In the Brampton Youth Advisory Committee, I was able to help out in organizing an event surrounding healthy living and Conservation Youth Corps helped me connect to nature. After planting ten trees, I felt extremely happy and as the summer continued, volunteering became one of my favourite hobbies.
Volunteering with various different organizations inspired me to start my own council called the Brampton’s Multicultural Youth Council. After coming to Canada, I lost touch with parts of my culture and was in the process of re-learning my native language. Brampton’s Multicultural Youth Council has become one of the most significant accomplishments of my life. Starting my own group required a lot of persistence and time. I recruited my own executive team, applied for a grant, and organized four different events. The “Youth in Action” grant gave me the platform to put my ideas in action and Volunteer MBC were a great help. I came to Carine Strong, the Executive Director, with an idea and she really showed me that I could make it happen. With the support of the Volunteer MBC staff, I applied for the “Youth in Action” grant and was fortunate enough to receive $2,000 to run my very own project to help the community. This project was called “Hidden Cultures”, a series of four interactive workshops focused on discovering different regions such as Eastern Europe, Africa and more! Planning this project allowed me to learn skills in marketing and event management. When it all came together, it was amazing to see students in my community be impacted through something I helped bring together. I still run the Multicultural Council and I can’t wait to see the impact we are going to have in the community!
I went from being a participant in volunteer activities, to a leader and then to someone providing others with a chance to volunteer. I still volunteer on a regular basis, but I love encouraging other students to volunteer as well. I have taken volunteer groups to help at the food bank and it’s extremely rewarding to see others become passionate about volunteering. I have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to lead the school’s Free the Children Club and also lead my council. I have gained so much from volunteering and I know it’s going to always be a part of my life. I feel that this quote really encompasses my feelings, “Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It's important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It's the way in which we ourselves grow and develop.”
Written by: Abeera Shahid