Volunteering for fun, friends and profit

Jun 26, 2003, vol. 27, no. 5
By Julie Ovenell-Carter

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SFU science student Viola Kaminski (left) checks out volunteer opportunities with new student program coordinator, Krista Vogt.

Want to round out your resume?

Test-drive a career? Find new friends? Top up your karma quotient?

You can do it all with one visit to SFU's volunteer centre, located in cyberspace at volunteer or on campus in room 1150 in the Maggie Benston building.

A free service of the student development and programming centre, the volunteer centre each year posts more than 200 unpaid positions available in the campus community and beyond.

Krista Vogt, (right) coordinator of the new student program, says the volunteer centre was created in the mid-1990s by “a small group of keen students who felt blessed by the opportunities they'd been given and wanted to give something back.”

Today the centre serves a broad demographic, from first year students looking to make new acquaintances to international students aiming to improve their language skills.

Posted jobs range from the mundane - basic clerical and data entry positions - to the enviable - teaching children's ski lessons on local slopes in return for an annual ski pass.

Viola Kaminski says that as a high-school student, she “just didn't understand why anyone would want to work for free.” But after a “depressing” first year at SFU, the shy science student decided volunteering might be the best way to “meet new people and open myself up to the world.”

This summer, after two weeks of intensive training, she will serve as a student orientation leader, “teaching new students what I wish someone had taught me about getting along at SFU.”

In September, she will volunteer at the SFU food bank.

Like Kaminski, second-year international student Ayomi Gomes says she has gained self-confidence and valuable leadership skills from her volunteer efforts as an orientation leader.

Gomes, who is from Sri Lanka, recommends volunteering to other international students.

She is planning a career in forensics, and hopes to apply her new skills to another volunteer position, preferably in a research lab.

SFU's Vogt knows first-hand how volunteer work can be a springboard to paid employment.

In 1997, while volunteering at the Japanese consulate in Vancouver, she was given the opportunity to organize a small conference.

“I was given a $5,000 budget and told to put together a two-day seminar. I learned a lot about event management, and those skills eventually helped me land my current job.”

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