Toronto is a volunteer’s city. I remember saying this to a friend who happens to be a new Torontonian. What I mean by this is that any time I’ve met someone who is holding down a great job – the roots of their present career success seems to have sprung up from volunteerism. Being relatively new to Toronto myself, this is something that has been drilled into me repeatedly by friends who’ve know the ropes of our city.
First and foremost, volunteering is valuable because you gain as much from the organization as you give to it. Honestly, even more so. The insight that you gain into a particular organization is applicable to your future career, as well as (and more importantly) contributing to becoming a well-rounded individual. Additionally, volunteering is a great way to foster great networking opportunities. With the job market going the way it has been for the past while, as students we can use all of the references that we can get.
A great way to volunteer is through the university’s Academic Service Learning, by choosing courses that have a Service Learning Placement component. The University of Toronto partners with local community groups to offer students the opportunity to give back while learning at the same time. I chose Theory and Praxis in Food Security (course code NEW 342) for two reasons – one: as an equity studies student, I knew very little about issues of food sovereignty; and two: it offered a service learning placement.
Our class had the choice of about ten different Toronto-area organizations that serve marginalized and under-served members of our community. We were told to write our names down beside our top three choices, and I was lucky to get my first pick – the Sistering drop in centre.
Sistering is a great organization that serves marginalized, homeless, and under-housed women in Toronto. They provide a safe space where women can come together and build community; offering writing workshops, yoga, sewing, health care programs, employment skills, and hot meals to any woman that drops in to the centre. Women can access laundry facilities, showers, and beds to nap on during the hours of operation.
This placement has been invaluable to me, being able to learn first hand about some of the root causes of food insecurity, and the challenges faced by organizations who are fighting a rough battle to ensure that all people are food secure.
The service learning component of my course is over, but I’ve decided to stay on as a volunteer with Sistering; I have a lot more to learn from the program coordinators, staff, volunteers, and patrons, and I honestly enjoy the atmosphere. My hope is that by staying on there, I’ll constantly remember that the privilege of being able to obtain a university education comes with the responsibility to always use that privilege to the benefit of my community.
This week’s Song of the Week is an instrumental by Mos Def. Shine your light, and enjoy 🙂