“Why do you volunteer?” Many people ask when they learn about my different volunteering commitments.
My purpose in life is two things: 1. To serve God, and 2. To serve His Creation. For me, my passion for volunteering stems from my purpose in life. This leads me to goals in life which are community building and learning. I’ve been very fortunate to be able learn and contribute towards community building in my volunteer roles. In reaching towards accomplishing those goals, my volunteer experience has been very diverse, ranging from working with youth in at risk neighbourhoods to leading English Conversation Circles. I’ll share a few of my experiences from my volunteer roles below.
Currently, I volunteer with the Muslim Awards of Excellence (MAX) in the MAX Mentorship program and MAX Youth Fellowship program for youth in high school. Specifically as a volunteer of the youth fellowship program, I have the opportunity to act as a positive and supportive mentor for a youth looking for guidance. While the mentees are younger than I am, I learn from their unique experiences and I am always awed to be with, and support, young motivated individuals who desire to make a change in our community. In the MAX Mentorship program, I also interview potential mentors who are career professionals and in doing so, I match them with mentees who aspire to similar callings.
The second volunteer experience I’ll share is working with newcomers (recent arrivals in Canada from all parts of the world). The scope of this experience has included leading English Conversation Circles as well as teaching two mentees basic computer skills through Indus Community Services.
My desire to lead English Conversation Circles came after I witnessed an incident of a female being humiliated in a shopping mall, because she was having trouble speaking English, given that it was not her first language. I decided then that I needed to search for a role where I can support newcomers with their integration into our community, as well as learning English. During my Conversation Circles with a group of Newcomers, I learned about the hardships they have been through and how much effort they are putting into integrating into their community, in spite the challenges. I consider myself very lucky to be able to be part of their journey.
The last volunteer experience I’ll share is when I planned, led, and executed an event along with volunteers at the University of Guelph-Humber called ‘GH Against Hate’. The event came about from seeing an increase in the number of hate crimes against visibly Muslim women. I strongly felt the need to raise awareness in my community about the difficulties that Muslim women wearing a hijab were facing while living in their communities (that sometimes seemed slow to adopt them). I collected stories from Muslim females who had been discriminated against this included being called ‘Terrorist’ ‘Go back to your country’ and even physical assaults. Many people who attended the event were shocked to hear that this was happening in Toronto or within the Greater Toronto Area. I am very grateful to the volunteers who gave of their time to help me with this event and raise awareness about such an important issue.
My philosophy when it comes to volunteering is that if you are privileged enough to live a comfortable life, then you need to support those who are not so fortunate or otherwise in a position to do so, so that our communities become stronger together.
I cannot recall where I read this most worthwhile quotation, but to paraphrase: When each of us reaches our goals and aspirations, we do better as a community and as a society. And that is exactly my thought when it comes to volunteering.
(Ms. Zulfiqar has been a volunteer ‘client’ of Volunteer MBC, since 2015.)