The Power of Volunteering
“If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” — Kofi Annan
Over this past year we have witnessed numerous staff, faculty, and students of St. Mary’s give their time and energy in service to others across the city of Calgary. People often say that as much as they’d like to help out, they simply don’t have the time. Elizabeth Andrew, the first woman organiser of the Labour Party in Wales, famously said that she doesn’t have the time to volunteer, but “I do have the heart”. Over several events organized by the President’s Volunteer Team, we definitely have seen tremendous heart on display.
Volunteering is really about a choice on how we use the time we are given. Nadia Hussein, who is the final semester of her psych degree and fifth year at St. Mary’s University, decided one day in her first year that she wanted to make a positive difference in someone’s life. “The main thing I had in my mind”, explained Nadia, “was that I really wanted to help people who were a bit more isolated. I first tried the hospital, who referred me to the Providence center across the street [from StMU]. I thought, I bet there are people who don’t get to sit down with a lot of people and talk about their lives, and I thought it would be really cool to be that person to sit down and talk with them.”
From that day, Nadia experienced the power of volunteering, not only for those she served, but for her own benefit as well. “Volunteering at Providence has opened my mind to the different experiences and the stories of other people. As I was talking with more and more people I just feel like I’ve learned so much. It’s been so uplifting.” When asked about the role of volunteers at Providence Centre, Recreation Therapist/Volunteer Coordinator, Carter Bannister, could not emphasize their value enough. “They are the ‘life blood’ of Providence. In fact, we depend on volunteers so much, without them we could not meet the needs of those we care for. They become part of our family.”
When Sofia Furtak and Bohdana Kunikevych arrived in January from the Ukraine as exchange students, they immediately searched out opportunities to volunteer. When asked why, Bohdana said she was inspired by the experience of previous exchange students she knew who had volunteered during their time at St. Mary’s. Bohdana quickly realized how much she wanted a similar experience. “I am very excited about volunteering here. I am sure that gained knowledge I could later apply in Ukraine care centers. It’s good to see another, probably more modern, approaches to work in care services. I hope I can bring positive changes to my hometown institutions.”
Given the level of commitment to studying in a completely foreign country, Sofia was asked how she fit volunteering into her demanding schedule. “For me, every kind of volunteering is about making my personal contribution to the well-being of the people around me, no matter in what country or in what organization. I feel happy to share my time with those who need it and every time I do something for others I receive much more for myself. It’s important to make difference in society, and the volunteering is my way to do that.”