My journey into exploring and seeking the right volunteer opportunities for my skills started right out of high school. I used my interest in and strong command of language by becoming a volunteer English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor at a conversation club downtown. Basically, we helped build visitors’ and foreign students’ (namely from Japan and Korea) by conducting one-on-one conversations that lasted for about an hour. Little more than merely speaking was involved. However, I always insisted that we hold special grammar and vocabulary sessions to secure stronger basics. I found that conversation and practice were key to picking up a new language. However, one cannot overlook the bad grammar.
My volunteer job with the SFU International Mentorship Program was more or less similar to that of the conversation club. We assisted newly-arrived foreign students in getting acquainted in their new home. However, I have found that many such students had already had strong English skills (or they wouldn’t have made it into SFU in the first place). As such, most of my work with SFU International Student Services involved helping in organizing fun monthly activities and group outings such as dinners at The Himalayan Peak and a tour of the Haunted Houses at the PNE.
Each ‘mentor’ was assigned up to 3 ‘mentees’ per semester, with whom he or she had to keep contact with on a regular basis usually through e-mail. The mentor and mentee would meet on several group or person-to-person occasions throughout the Fall or Spring semester. I had the chance to meet many amazing people and make new friends from all around the globe.
A smart communications major will give an equal balance to their verbal and interpersonal skills as well as to their research and written skills. I did just that when I got involved with SFPIRG. The Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Program (or just SFPIRG) is an on-campus student-funded organization that promotes social justice and environmental issues on a local and global level. They have several programs by which SFU students can get linked with and do research for major NGOs throughout the lower mainland. They also provide a space to hang out in their unique library, which carries up to 5,000 books and items that promote matters of public interest. With SFPIRG, I signed up to be an assistant librarian and maintained their lending catalogue. My involvement with SFPIRG was short, yet I did learn a lot about topics simply by shelving books, DVDs and magazines that you wouldn’t normally find in many libraries or chain bookstores.
My most recent experience with SFU Volunteer Services’ Engage Blog is a very creative idea: A group of SFU students who volunteer to scout, write about and promote volunteer openings and opportunities on and off campus. We announce forthcoming volunteer positions, interview youths who have embraced public engagement and discuss matters and causes that SFU students should be aware of. Through SFU Engage Blog, I furthered my writing, editing and time-management skills, learned more about groups and organizations that suit my interests and concerns and can applaud myself for having made a contribution, no matter how big or how little.
By Jamal Saad