What I learned from Volunteering
By Eddie Chow, student leader
Nearing the end of my four years in my undergraduate, it’s wild to think that I’ve been volunteering with Student Open Circles for over 3 years now. I discovered it through a friend in my first year, and after visiting the in-person volunteer fair in the winter term, I signed up as a reading buddy at the Dr. J.E. Davey Elementary School in the 2020 winter term. Shortly after, I became a volunteer facilitator for the following summer during COVID, beginning my role in a completely online setting. That summer, I volunteered with the YMCA Newcomer Youth Program and the Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton. The former involved tutoring immigrant youth in various subjects including English, math and science, whereas the latter involved assisting camp counsellors in running summer camp activities for kids through Zoom. After that beginning in the fall term of 2020, I was a volunteer facilitator for the Letters to Seniors program at Shalom Village and then at Hamilton City Housing, where I wrote letters and made artwork for seniors experiencing isolation during the COVID pandemic. This term, I am now volunteering with Reading Rocks, where I am working with children struggling with literacy skills.
Although this term will probably be my last term volunteering with Student Open Circles, I have wholly enjoyed these past 3 years volunteering. It’s an experience that I will deeply cherish and never forget because of the memories I made with the people we volunteer for, my volunteers, my co-facilitators, and the people who make up SOC like Jeff, Marybeth, Ginni, and Shunmathi. My role as a volunteer facilitator was an important milestone in coping with my anxiety of public speaking and taking on a larger leadership role. It taught me important socials skills like communicating effectively with volunteers and co-facilitators and leading group discussions that traverse into vulnerable topics. It also taught me important organizational skills such as planning weekly meetings including reflection activities and coordinating with my co-facilitator to handle tasks. Ultimately, my role in Student Open Circles was an important growth experience for me that I will deeply value.
We train and mentor 40 student volunteer group facilitators each year
They lead 20-25 weekly volunteer groups
Our volunteers provide homework help, mentor children/youth, assist adults with disability, and serve at shelters
Pre-pandemic, 300 weekly volunteers gave 10,000 hours of service
We grew to 400 weekly volunteers giving 18,000 hours to respond to pandemic needs