Leidy Aspilla's Story
Meet Leidy Aspilla. Coming to Canada was a big change for her. It was a new start. She missed her friends and familiar surroundings. But through her volunteering she began to feel at home here.
When she lived in the Philippines, volunteering was embedded in the school system. So it was a part of her life already. That meant that when she immigrated here and she continued her studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus (UTM), she looked for volunteer opportunities.
She volunteered at a tax clinic at UTM wherein she prepared tax returns for students during the tax season. Since she had specialised in Accounting, she was able to share her knowledge and skills to help students and enjoyed the experience very much. It made her happy that she was able to help others.
Continuing her search for volunteer roles, she found Volunteer MBC. There she took on administrative responsibilities and helped clients find volunteer positions in the Peel region. This helped her understand the 40 hours of community service which is a requirement for high school students. So while she volunteered, she also learnt about the community she lived in. The staff were helpful, listened to her, asked how she was doing, made her feel comfortable and were very supportive, which added to a positive working experience for her.
Leidy credits her volunteering with helping her learn about her new environment. She was very shy and reserved, so the changes related to the new country and culture felt overwhelming at first. Volunteering helped her get more comfortable with her surroundings and helped her make new friends. While she volunteered at Volunteer MBC she spoke to students and newcomers, was able to identify with them and their experiences and was able to share with them what she was going through. This was reassuring to her since she realised that she was not alone in her experiences since a lot of people experienced what she did, when they immigrated to Canada. Hearing others' stories motivated and encouraged her.
Her greatest accomplishment was helping students. Whenever she was able to match opportunities with clients, she felt very proud because she had been in their position at a previous stage in her life.
When she was at U of TM, she found the environment very different from what she was used to. It took time for her to find and make friends and be comfortable with others. So she encourages others to challenge themselves and to keep pushing themselves since you never know what you will get out of the experience. Volunteering at Volunteer MBC was an amazing experience for her. She feels very attached to the organisation because of the opportunities it gave her.
When Leidy was asked how volunteering has benefited her, she said: “You grow. You don't notice it because you think you're giving but you get just as much from the experience, if not more."
Her advice to others is: “Just do it. It is so easy to fall back and think about the past instead of moving forward. Challenge yourself to do it and you'll find the most surprising thing." She learnt about Canada and about herself, so it was a form of self development. "So don't be afraid to put yourself out there."
Written by Lisa Dantas, Volunteer Writer