Finding Purpose through Volunteering

by Marybeth Leis Druery

CVA volunteers chatting and playing games with the kids at the Breakfast program

She stayed up all night writing a paper that’s due today, yet she’s still here for the kids at the Breakfast program at 7:30am. As we wash dishes together after the children leave for school, Beatrice* tells me that her paper, due later today, is still not done and she’s going home to write it after we finish our reflection.

Dishes washed and dried, we sit in a circle for our weekly reflection that follows our time volunteering with the children. I give back the letters each volunteer wrote to themselves at the beginning of the term, and as we each unseal our letter I remind them that the letters were written to express how we hoped to learn, grow, and serve this term.

Did You Know?

In downtown Hamilton where most of the CVA volunteer groups serve,

  • 47% of people live in poverty compared to 18.1% in the whole city of Hamilton
  • 69% of children under 6 are living in poverty, compared to 26% in the whole city of Hamilton

(Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton)

We take turns describing what we’ve discovered through our service experiences and getting to know the children at the Breakfast program. Beatrice is the first to share, telling us that, though she started volunteering only two months ago, taking time for group reflection at the end each week has helped her to notice so much. In halting English she says: “This experience has changed me. I used to always want more and more. But whatever I had was never enough. Now I realize I have enough and I have so much I’m thankful for. I’ve learned I really enjoy working with children and this is what I now want to do for my job. When I graduate I’m going back to my country to get a job. There people working with children don’t make much money but I don’t care because I enjoy it and can help children. I used to want to be in a different career, one to make lots and lots of money, but now I see that job is boring to me and not what I want to do.”

Now I understand why she is here this morning, after staying up all night.

* name changed