My volunteer journey started off when I was 12 years old. My first volunteer experience was more of an involuntary experience. My mom asked me to volunteer as a pianist at my local church. It started off a little rough because it was a situation I wasn’t familiar with and I wasn’t confident in my piano skills. Despite my doubts, being my church’s pianist was really fun. I am glad that I went for this opportunity. It was my first glimpse into the world of volunteering and it really opened my eyes to see how volunteering could positively affect a community.
When I got to high school, volunteering became a whole different story. “How many hours do you have?” Or “Do you have up to 40 yet?” were questions that I would hear on a daily basis. One student told me she had 57 hours and I felt bad because I didn’t even know that we were supposed to be counting! It was all about the number and not about the experience and that didn’t feel right to me. At that point, I had been volunteering at my church for 2 years and I had found many other volunteer experiences through Volunteer MBC’s referral system. I had grown to like volunteering at my church because I got to meet new people and it gave me a chance to improve my skill. Also, through my other volunteer experiences, I learned how much of a positive effect volunteering had on a community. In my time volunteering for the Journey’s Refresh Program, I saw how little acts of kindness could brighten someone’s day. The people in the community were so grateful for the work we did and that was so much more gratifying than doing the same work in a job. In my time volunteering for the Summer Teen Activity Program at Community Living Mississauga, I learned that volunteering can be fun. I got to support the staff and hang out with youth who have intellectual disabilities. We did all sorts of fun summer activities and it didn’t even feel like I was volunteering.
I volunteer because it is all I can do to make the world a better place. Years ago, I found myself complaining about how bad the world was; how unfair it was that so many people lived below the poverty line and how so many people are discriminated against because of reasons they can not control. The problem was that I was a full-time student who had no money to give, and I was too young to vote. Despite these shortcomings, I still wanted to do something. The only thing I could do was give my time and that is what I did.
I give my time to the causes I care about because that is what I would want someone to do for me. Volunteering is my way of paying back the sacrifices volunteers in my community made for me. I am happy to go #beyond40hours because I believe volunteer hours shouldn’t be counted. I do it because the gratitude I receive from someone who I’ve supported is more than all the money in the world.