“Giving back to the community is a powerful thing…. Seeing the different side of life opens up your horizons so much.” – Swarna Debba, SFU Student
Last time, I wrote about the Union Gospel Mission (UGM), an organization making a real difference in the downtown eastside. In that article, I’ve mentioned that I talked to Swarna Debba who, at that time, was doing a coop term for UGM.
This time I’d like to highlight Swarna’s personal experience in volunteering. It’s apparent from the previous article how passionate Swarna is in helping others.
In addition to working for UGM, Swarna also volunteers for the organization. For instance, she has volunteered for the UGM drop-in centre in New Westminster, BC. Swarna explains that the New Westminster Drop-in centre has a different demographic of people compared to the downtown east side location.
Explaining what she did for them, she says: “We served them breakfast. We have an outreach worker giving them tickets, and they come in and get a cup of coffee, and they have a meal. Mostly what I did was serve coffee. “
According to Swarna, the UGM drop-in centre in New Westminster also provided a space for the less fortunate to just hang out and feel valued. There were table and chairs available as well as desserts donated by businesses around the area.
Swarna also has volunteered for UGM’s kitchen. She and two other coop students have volunteered their time to help clean up, set tables, prepare meals for the homeless and hungry men and women that UGM helps.
The experience of helping in the kitchen has given Swarna better insights about the organization. She says this gave her the opportunity to also experience the front lines of the organization instead of doing office work. Swarna has also generously volunteered her time to go out on the streets around the UGM area and pick up needles, garbage, and anything that’s out there, and just make sure that the kids get to school safely.
Finally, I asked Swarna on her thoughts on why students should volunteer.
“Giving back to the community is powerful thing. It depends what you do, but working with an organization such as UGM is life-changing. A lot of people come to us for a meal. They need help with whatever they need help with,“ she says.
Although Swarna spends a lot of time generously giving her own time to UGM, she points out that she also benefits from the experience.
“For myself and the two other coop students here, it’s also a place of love and support and genuine care that you don’t always get from our suburban, consumer-driven world. And so seeing the different side of life opens up your horizons so much. “
I hope that Swarna’s story inspires you. While many students look into volunteering as a way to develop work-related skills, Swarna reminds us that sometimes making a difference in your community is a benefit on its own.