In October 2011, I graduated university with a double major in Law & Society and International Development. It would be a milestone for anyone to celebrate, however I was completely stressed and burnt out. Since Grade 12, I had been struggling to go to school and take care of my daughter, whilst also being forced to put my own personal issues on the back burner. I was completely unhappy and bitter, having worked at McDonald’s for 8 years, trying to make ends meet and not having the time or ability to figure out who I was and what I would do next. All I did know was that I wanted to be the best mother I could be, and give my daughter the life that I never had with my mother.
My first encounter with the word ‘volunteer’ came at the age of 2. My mother was about the same age I was when I had my daughter, and was bringing me to a babysitter every day. I was a premature child, and by that age, I had already gone through open heart surgery and many trips to the hospital. At some point I believe my mom was tired of caring for a sick child, and my sitter had seen this too. Thus, she volunteered to give me a permanent home and I did not see my mom again until the age of 15. When my mom was granted custody, my sitter was heartbroken. She died 1 year later and at that point, I believe I lost who I was. Everything that I was—happy, confident, full of life, excelling academically—was lost when she died.
To this day, it amazes me thinking about the emotional toll it took on my life. After graduating university, I realized just how much of a wreck I was. There were times I couldn’t look at my daughter because I didn’t feel confident enough that I could do the best for her. I didn’t think I could prove to my mom that I was worth it then, and still am now. I had no self-esteem, and I didn’t want to work at McDonald’s anymore. When my hours were reduced, I would stay at home, lounging in depression and bitterness. One day, I decided I couldn’t go on like this anymore. I needed to find out who I was and what I’d like to do in order to go forward. With this in mind, I decided I needed to volunteer.
Trying to research organizations where I could see myself volunteering was a bit hard. I began volunteering and signed up for various short-term volunteer opportunities, but felt I needed something more where I could explore my various skills and interests. Luckily, I came across Volunteer MBC through exploring Twitter and came across a vast list of opportunities for various areas and interests. I believe this encounter really gave me a sense of direction. I applied for a Volunteer Engagement Assistant position, and having no skills or education in the area, didn’t believe I would get the position. But I did! Throughout the entire year, I believe I re-learned so many of the things about myself that my sitter had always told me. I realized I was a quick learner, that I was very adaptable, and that I do have transferable skills that will allow me to gain employment outside of McDonald’s.
In August 2013 after graduating from yet another post-secondary program, I began to question my future again. Like many other graduates, I was questioning the possibility that any education at all would really help me to get my foot in the door for employment. Luckily 1 month later, I gained employment at Volunteer MBC! I started to believe again in the value of education, and most of all, started to believe in the possibility of creating a stable future for myself and my daughter. I truly believe that if I had not volunteered, I would not be where I am today. Volunteering has given me a the chance that I needed to see past my circumstances and live the life I’ve desired so dearly, and I thank God for placing the staff of Volunteer MBC and the organizations that make volunteer opportunities possible in my life to assist me in this journey. Although now employed, I continue to volunteer my time as I see it as a means of continuous growth and education, but also as a way of giving back to all the individuals who have made my opportunities possible. Through volunteering, I have assisted the little girl within me that lost herself, and it has truly been a remarkable healing process.
Written by: Ebony Wright