Volunteering is Serious Fun!

by Richa Sud, Community Volunteer Action (CVA) student facilitator

My name is Richa and I am in my fourth year at McMaster University. I became involved as a CVA volunteer last year with ten other McMaster students volunteering at the Homework Help Club with recent immigrant youth in downtown Hamilton. Since the youth did not have English as their first language, it was a priority for us to help them out with English so they could perform well in high school. Many of them aspired to enter into university or college upon graduation so they were anxious to learn from us about how they should go about the process. The friendships we built and the smiles and conversations that we had were always heart-warming.

This year I am facilitating a group to volunteer with Bennetto Public School, where we help out every week in the classroom with which we were each matched at the beginning of the term. After watching the Homework Help Club facilitators last year, I decided I wanted to take on more responsibilities and to grow as an individual and a leader. Facilitating a CVA volunteer group has greatly helped me learn to better handle stressful conditions. Understanding the issues faced by student volunteers like me, who have to juggle school work and extracurricular commitments, it is important that I am a support to the volunteers and motivate them to stay committed to being at Bennetto School every week. Preparing reflection questions and activities for our discussions after volunteering is not only fun but also gives me satisfaction to see the volunteers in my group share their feelings and open up about their struggles. We learn to respect others and to give equal opportunity for everyone to speak.

Jeff and students displaying the “bridge” they built in our CVA volunteer orientation to symbolize the connections students are building through service. This group tutors recent immigrant youth at YMCA.

At Bennetto School, I am volunteering with a Grade 3 class and have come to learn a number of things from the children. I help them one on one with their reading and also help the teacher with any other activity that she has planned for me. At first not having had much experience with young children, except my own little brother, I wasn’t sure how the experience would be. But through time I have come to realize that it’s never the same experience. Every week we see a new dimension to the same picture. The kids have their ups and downs—sometimes they are bright and cheerful, and then at other times they are angry or gloomy. And then I have also seen them exchange stickers and bracelets and give second chances to each other while playing games and being kind to each other.

I receive constant warm and sweet hugs from many of these children. Sometimes what can be so simple as a hug when received and given with no expectations, can make the kids and, I won’t lie, me feel special! There is so much love every time I visit the class. Giving them constant encouragement and having a nice and interesting talk with them really brightens my day.

As much as the experience is enjoyable I also understand the serious side of what I am doing. I have come to know children who have behavioural issues or are unable to perform optimally compared to the rest of the class. Since the teacher is unable to provide individual focus to each child who needs attention, I hope that the little extra help that I provide makes a difference. Without this encouragement and confidence, there could be bigger concerns emerging in their lives later.

Being a psychology student myself, I aspire to help individuals by applying what I have learned. I am really interested in helping young children with issues that they face at home or at school. Since it’s my last year at Mac now, I will be applying for social work and also counseling psychology programs. Either way I will be more than happy to work every day with children who need some love and a little help.

I would like to genuinely thank Student Open Circles for providing this opportunity to me and to many other CVA volunteers at Mac to live this wonderful and nourishing experience through our university life.