Volunteering Changed My Path

by Mengyuan Zhou

Mengyuan is an international student from China who volunteered weekly with Community Volunteer Action (CVA) at the Dr. Davey Breakfast program in inner city Hamilton. Here she reflects on how it opened her eyes.

When I joined the Breakfast Program volunteer group I had the intention of doing something special and meaningful during my last undergraduate semester. As time passed, however, I grew in ways I hadn’t imagined. As a foreigner holding a different cultural belief, I seized any opportunity to learn from the diverse cultures and countries represented by the volunteers in our group including Canadian, Vietnamese, and Lebanese.

As I got to know the Hamilton neighbourhood in-depth, I found that poverty, low literacy and education levels, and poor infrastructure are linked to each other and especially affected by the government policy. Those children I am helping out are not the only kids—they represent a larger group of people who need more care and public concern from society. As a business student, I intended to work for a private company or bank to generate profit for the private sector after I graduate. But while volunteering in the Breakfast Program I heard neighbourhood stories that showed this is a less developed area in such a developed country! And this made me wonder: How about China, a developing country?! How might these needs exist in my home country?

One week when we couldn’t volunteer because the Breakfast Program had a holiday, our group of volunteers went on an excursion to the downtown farmer’s market instead. Through this I learned some government policies on the agricultural sector and how it affects the farmers, people we still need to care about. It made me think about how, since importing goods is much cheaper, people tend to buy foreign products. What can we do to support local farmers?

From these experiences, I now plan to use my business background and explore further study in social work, relating it to these issues I have learned about through volunteering.