Change is Possible

by Simran Sandhu

CVA Student Facilitator at Bennetto Classroom Support, Conway Opportunity Homes, and Eva Rothwell Family Night

I think that people take society for granted. I think we assume that things work a certain way and when they don’t we change them or jumble them around so that they do. People are in a rut. At least, I think they are. Most of the time. But volunteering taught me that society is not that mechanical or fixed. It’s always changing and evolving, something that I’d forgotten in the day-to-day toil.

Community Volunteer Action (CVA) pulled me into this absolutely fascinating underbelly of society, where I saw all the angles, the little things that don’t seem to fit and that most people can ignore during their daily grind, but something that, as a volunteer, I was forced to notice. I volunteered among children and adults with disabilities. I read stories and helped with developing literacy, which is surprisingly lacking in so many neighbourhoods in Hamilton, even more surprising for a country like Canada. I walked by worn-out buildings and travelled in musty city transit busses. It wasn’t a glamourous experience, but it was a necessary one.

In working with adults, I learned about the difficulties of living with disabilities and on government welfare.  I came into the experience with my own illusions.  I could deny that they existed or argue that I came in with an open mind, but open-mindedness alone does not quash personal biases.  Student Open Circles led me on a path that, almost accidently, made me fall in love with Hamilton and question the foundation of biases I held.  I was challenged by questions of difference.  Am I different from the people I was helping? OR am I the same, only dressed up a different way?  I questioned myself on what my place was within this society that is so layered an convoluted.  Some of these questions came from me, but many were presented to me by my group facilitators, which I would later ask my own group of volunteers.

Student Open Circles placed before me questions upon questions, but they also introduced me to some amazing groups of people. I was able to put my degree and my life goals in perspective. Many of us are incredibly privileged, but few of us are willing to admit it. Circumstances, life’s lottery, so to speak, also play a role. However, alongside raising awareness of important societal issues, Student Open Circles also gives its members a medium through which they can affect change. I think that was the most valuable insight I took from my volunteering experience. That using my resources and my skills, and in developing even more of them, I could also become a medium to affect change and that’s a fairly powerful idea, is it not?