Day of Service: More Than Volunteering
Queen Jacques is a fourth-year neuroscience and mental health student.
Days of Service are one-day volunteer opportunities for students to get involved, and are for those who are unable to commit to a regular volunteer service. I had the opportunity to attend one volunteer session at A Post Psychiatric Leisure Experience (A.P.P.L.E), a non-profit mental health drop-in center in Ottawa. A.P.P.L.E’s goal is to enhance the quality of life of their members with mental illnesses by offering support through recreational activities. Their leisure activities include movies, bingo, picnics, bowling, refreshments, and hosting holiday and special event parties.
This volunteer experience was very different from the various volunteer positions I’ve had in the past. I always thought Community Service Learning (CSL) was just a fancy and more professional title for ‘volunteer,’ however this experience defined CSL for me. This experience was about providing service and support to those in need, but it was equally about learning from this community and organization. As a volunteer for A.P.P.L.E I was able to be there for their members as a friend and help the staff organize activities that the members can participate in. It was almost like an after school program, but for mentally ill individuals who don’t get the support they need in life. It allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, and talk to people and to listen to their stories. It allowed me to shed the stigma that often surrounds individuals who are mentally ill. CSL provides meaning and allows one to make improvements within a community and also promote awareness. It’s almost weird to say, but one session was really inspirational and made me want to get involved in more CSL positions. As a result, I was able to apply and participate in Alternative Spring Break (ASB) which was a week-long CSL experience in Nicaragua. I was also able to go back to A.P.P.L.E again with my ASB group to participate in my second day of service, and it was just as fun as the first time.
Participating in Days of Service allowed me to meet great groups of people and also be involved in a wonderful community organization. Being a neuroscience and mental health student, I was able to learn about mental illness from a different perspective that a textbook or even a lecture could not provide me. I would encourage students to get involved with this program that the Student Experience Office (SEO) offers. There are also other organizations with which one can volunteer for within Days of Service, such as the Ottawa Mission, Dalhousie Food Cupboard and Salvation Army.
Days of Service are a great start to one’s community involvement experience and it’s easy to sign up for! You can also add it to your Co-Curricular Record (CCR). Getting involved is the best experience one will have as a student and Days of Service are a great start!