We’re all born and raised in countries where there are always those in need. Having not been in Canada long, I still have vivid memories of my home on the African continent, in a community where everywhere I looked, there were so very many in very much of need. I came to realize that I was in a position to provide something here, something there that would clearly help. How I came to such a personal realization was not unlike an epiphany.
Poverty was rife in my community back home. Seemingly endless political instability and corruption fed unrest and wreaked havoc with the local and national economy. Those well-positioned and possessed of marketable abilities made sure that those who were less able would have their opportunities severely limited, with the weak being wholly deprived. Women and children were less than second class in an oppressive patriarchy. If rights did exist, these never went beyond ‘paper’.
My tendency to worry and an inner sense of decency combined to cause the ‘epiphany’ mentioned above. The ‘big picture’ paralyzed me. The scale of suffering was and is huge. Where to begin to alleviate? But, hold on. I realized that I couldn’t save the world. That did not stop me from offering myself willingly to ‘causes’ on a local scale. Interestingly, the more I offered and participated, the more fulfilled I became!
FAST FORWARD TO CANADA. Certainly quite a different place, with a working and workable system. Poverty, vulnerability, and need of support are here, but not as widespread as back home. People living in Canada can have really different backgrounds, yet we have rights, diversity, and inclusiveness that does not simply ‘stay on paper’. In a lot of ways, Canada was all new and its system and way of doing things truly foreign to me.
I found that adopting Canada through volunteering is indeed possible! At a local college where I’m studying to be a community social worker, I started small as a chosen volunteer student ambassador, literally opening a door that included organizing school activities and launching a newsletter. Having passed through that threshold, I knew that I could do more.
Similar to an introduction experienced by someone who mentors me at the moment, I chanced to meet Madhuri Payidiparty of Volunteer MBC at a career fair. Thanks to her friendliness and simplicity of approach, I gained an immediate awareness and feeling about Volunteer MBC. It was easy to ‘hit it off’. She asked if I might consider being a volunteer with Volunteer MBC. I think that I replied, “I’d be honoured.” I created a ‘profile’ for the purpose of being an ‘Outreach Ambassador’. Interview, then orientation, and I was empowered to reach out into my new community with the universal message and satisfaction of being a volunteer. So direct. So hands on. So meaningful.
It came as no surprise that my role at the organization has become more formalized through my academic placement requirement. As a ‘Volunteer Engagement Assistant’, I meet daily with people from all walks of life and from all over the world (even landed in Canada as recently as a week ago!). All share with me genuine curiosity about volunteering that I get to build upon through referrals of suitable opportunities. And all the while, I’m supported by staff who intend nothing less than to have me succeed, while also building my educational credentials and personal presence in Canada.