Darcy Wells - 20 September, 2017
Several months ago I stumbled on a video posted by online lifestyle company Refinery29 detailing an employee’s pursuit to volunteer or give back every day for 5 days. The video struck me because the employee completing the challenge, Lucie Fink, demonstrated how simple yet gratifying the small act of giving can be. When reflecting on this video, I decided to take on this challenge myself when I got back to Kingston after summer break. For this blog post I will be sharing my findings with you in an effort to show you how you can volunteer and give back in Kingston and how life-changing and impactful the experience of giving can be on your outlook on life.
Day 1: An Afternoon with Girls Inc. Limestone
For the past two years I have been a volunteer with Girls Inc. at the Kingston Limestone Chapter. Girls Inc. provides after-school care for girls ages 4-16 which includes life-skills education and mentoring programs. Whether it be through dance or art classes, learning to play soccer, or getting hands on experience with robots (courtesy of the Queen’s RoboGals), Girls Inc. provides girls who come from low-income households a chance to gain important skills and to have a safe escape. Girls Inc.’s mission is to inspire girls to be strong, smart and bold!
I spent the afternoon helping the dedicated staff facilitate activities for the girls. I got the chance to hang out with the girls and hear their stories - the ability they have to overcome their circumstances and continue to learn and grow is truly amazing. The girls of Girls Inc. will forever have a profound impact on how I view my own childhood and my purpose moving forward.
Day 2: Serving Meals at Martha’s Table
Martha's Table is a non-profit charitable organization that provides low cost nutritious meals to those in need, in a safe and accepting environment. In high school, I was very involved in the youth homelessness crisis that is a major issue in my city (I’m from Saint John, New Brunswick, which has the one of the highest poverty rates per capita in the country). I wanted to get back to helping people in need, so I spent an evening at Martha’s Table, preparing and serving food to dozens of people. I met so many people and heard so many stories of love, family and loss, and I walked away with a greater appreciation for the life I’ve had and a sense of responsibility to keep helping people in the future.
Day 3: Free Hugs with Carly Robertson
This day may have been my favourite – I spent just 15 minutes talking to the “Free Hugs Lady” Carly Robertson at Union and University. Many of us just smile and walk by, but today I wanted to approach her and see if I could help out. Robertson was born four months pre-mature and has since been blind in her right eye, with limited visibility in her left. She has limited hearing and communicates by using hearing aids and reading lips. She has recently started a personal business of teaching sign language and spends her free time trying to bring a smile to students’ faces as they walk by. She told me that she just loves spreading love and joy, and that she hopes she can make people happy when they see her Free Hugs sign.
Carly is an amazing role model and a true example of a giver. She showed me that it is easy to give back and that it just takes an idea and a little bit of effort. What I learned from her is that people too often over complicate the act of volunteering and proceed to make excuses, when it is just so simple. Thank you Carly for helping me continue to understand the value of giving!
Day 4: Storytime at the Fairmount Retirement Home
On Day 4 I went to the Fairmount Retirement Home to spend time with seniors. I have always loved talking to older people – their wisdom, stories and zest for life is inspiring. There is so much we can learn from our elders, and I believe that it is very important that we listen and make our grandparents and older people feel heard and recognized. So today I spoke with seniors in the home about their lives, their families and the incredible lessons they’ve learned. Today I learned that volunteering and giving doesn’t have to be a one-way street. I gained so much from my conversations at the home, and I am already looking forward to returning and seeing my new friends again in a few weeks!
Day 5: Giving Back on Campus
I spent my last day researching ways that I can get involved and give back within the Queen’s community. I discovered that there are so many ways that Queen’s students can help out -whether it’s by volunteering off-campus like I did at Girls Inc., Martha’s Table or the Fairmount Home, taking part in a club on campus that supports a cause that you are passionate about, or by simply giving Free Hugs on a Saturday afternoon with Carly Robertson.
This week I have learned so much about all of the ways I can make a difference both at Queen’s and in the Kingston community. As students, we may be busy and stressed at times, but we do have the luxury of having free time to take part in volunteering and giving back. We can all do something – so my advice is to go out and find a cause or an organization that you’re passionate about and help in any way you can. Imagine: Queen’s and Kingston would be an even greater place if every student adopted the same mentality as Carly Robertson. It’s simple, perhaps not easy, but it just takes one step (or one hug) to get started.