My Volunteer Experiences at West Coast LEAF

After over twenty hours of volunteering with West Coast LEAF as a Volunteer Youth Facilitator, I finally have a better sense on how and why the workshops are so important to students and community participants. After having been to three different facilities and meeting three large groups of teenagers, I have come to understand the importance of providing public education about youth’s rights in the workplace and the power dynamics in this society.

My first workshop was at John Oliver High School. I was very nervous that day, but it went by very smoothly. Initially, I thought that grade 9 students did not know what power can do to people or who has power in society, however, they knew more than I would have imagined. Some students were more outspoken than others, and some were out right rude. At the end of the workshop, I was more relieved that it was over. I did not feel like the students were enthusiastic enough, and one student was even rude about the cases presented. I did not expect to hear colloquial slang that was significantly inappropriate for a Grade 9 student to be speaking in class. I was very surprised, and when I heard it I was so shocked that I did not know what to say. Luckily, my supervisor intervened and made the situation better.

My second workshop was more pleasant. This was during the Olympic break and I had a cold. Luckily there were two other workshop facilitators and I did not have to speak too much. I felt as if the neighbourhood house did not plan the workshop really well. Our workshop was not only rushed, but the coordinator at that neighbourhood house over booked presentations/workshops for the group of girls.

My third and last workshop I was a part of was my most memorable one. I really believe that this is the reason I wanted to volunteer as a Youth Facilitator for West Coast LEAF. The last group consisted of teens of all ages, and they were one of the most enthusiastic groups I have been with. Though the two sessions went over time, the group was never tired or excited to leave! This group was actually interested to know what their rights are at work and how they can be protected depending on their age. One of the participants even brought in their pay stub so that the whole group can discuss the topic on pay stubs more thoroughly. This group was not as interested in the dynamics of power and who holds power compared to their rights as workers. Yet luckily, it all tied into our workshop. Even if they did not enjoy our lesson on power dynamics in society, they did in the end enjoy our workshop.

Overall, my experience with West Coast LEAF was awesome. I am hoping to continue volunteering for them when there are workshop opportunities. Legal public education, I believe, is the foundation for teenagers to begin to grasp a hold of their citizen duties and rights.

By Karen Cho