By: Yechan Kim
I have been involved in Community Volunteer Circles since my first year of undergrad, and I currently lead the weekly volunteer group at the Learning and Fun (LAF) afterschool group. What has made this volunteer experience different are the reflections that are led by the group facilitator after every session.
These reflections are a time to nurture volunteerism in the group, a safe place where all voices can be heard without judgments, and an opportunity for growth. It can range from open conversation to an activity that teaches about statistics and demographics of the people we are helping, or how we can become more mindful of others as well as ourselves.
Volunteering was previously something that I could not take home, but Community Volunteer Circles changed my mindset. Now, even if I am volunteering through a different organization, I still take time to reflect, even if it is by myself.
I have been with the LAF group for over 5 years. In LAF you are paired up with one or two at-risk children to mentor them throughout the year. So, volunteers really have a chance to build rapport with their mentee.
One mentee in particular has left a considerable impression on me. I have known him since he started 7th grade and was there when he graduated from the program at the end of his 8th grade. I mentored him for two years, and if I had to describe him in a few words, I would say that he was full of energy towards playing but lacked academic enthusiasm despite being smart. Although we would always have a blast when it was activity time, it was a struggle to keep him on track with his studies. But over the years, it slowly became better and better.
Once it was time to say goodbye, I was worried about what the future held for him, but was also excited for how much more he would continue to grow. It has been 3 years since he graduated from the program and I don’t have to worry about or guess how he is doing right now, as he is volunteering with me for LAF.
He is an honor roll student and he is considering his plans for post-secondary education. Every time he comes to LAF and tells me how he aced a test or about his future aspirations, I feel proud and nostalgic at the same time, because the young mentee that had trouble paying attention for 15 minutes on academics grew up to be this excellent student who is now thriving.
By no means do I take all or significant credit for how he turned out, as I am aware that he had this potential in him all this time, but it is interactions like these that helped me decide to stay in Hamilton when decisions had to be made on which school to go to for graduate studies.
To find out more about volunteering in a weekly group, attend one of Community Volunteer Circle’s fairs:
Find out more about our volunteer placements at: www.opencircle.mcmaster.ca/volunteer
Community Volunteer Circles (CVC) is a program of Open Circle. We are a network of volunteering groups where you volunteer weekly with other McMaster students at placements across Hamilton. Your group facilitator helps you find your way to the placement and facilitates discussion for 15 minutes after each volunteer session to help you reflect on your experiences and how these relate to larger societal issues.