My Big Surprise

by Sheree Gopie, CVA volunteer group student facilitator

Sheree and Divya (left to right) connecting during our winter retreat.

When I heard about the opportunity to volunteer at the Breakfast Program, I thought it would simply be a weekly two hour commitment that would be a change from the hustle and bustle of school.  I was certainly in for a surprise.  Aside from the typical structure of volunteering (meeting and interacting with new people, volunteering and going home), CVA offers a twist – the weekly reflection discussions.  Weekly reflection discussions on topics such as being role models, learning how to communicate well, discovering the importance of our work to the many people we are serving, shone a different light on my volunteer experience.  I discovered I was not just helping others; I am developing skills within myself as well.  Meeting weekly at the bus stop on campus at 7:10am every Thursday morning has been such a treat because I get to see my fellow volunteers, which through the help of our weekly discussions, have now become my good friends.

Volunteering is not this painstaking task that ‘has’ to be done; it is a conscious choice I make every Thursday morning when my alarm goes off at 6:45am to say ‘Yes, I’m going to go help today.’  Being a volunteer group facilitator for most of my volunteer time with CVA, I have enjoyed teaching other McMaster students about the Hamilton community and seeing them grow and develop skills within themselves.  My McMaster family has grown to include not just fellow classmates but volunteers as well.  

I feel as though my time here in Hamilton has not strictly been an academic one, but that of self-discovery and growth. Being a part of CVA for the past year and a half, has been a very enriching and enjoyable experience.  Living in Hamilton while attending McMaster University, I never thought I would have become a part of or been involved in the Hamilton community.  The only way to truly learn about a city is to become involved in it, and what better way than through volunteering. Many McMaster students experience university life within the so called ‘McMaster bubble’, never venturing out into the community in which they reside.  Having the opportunity to volunteer in downtown Hamilton, has taught me about what life is like outside of the bubble.  Hamilton is a diverse city and through the work of Student Open Circles, McMaster students like myself, get the chance to meet new people, learn about their community and most importantly, learn about themselves.