ELP Volunteering: A Win-Win Experience
Volunteering at the English Language Program (ELP) provides students with the opportunity to expand their learning of the English language and of Canadian culture beyond the classroom. Every week, students have the opportunity to sign up for various volunteering initiatives in the community; some of these initiatives occur weekly, while others are seasonal. A weekly initiative that is popular among ELP students is volunteering with the St. Felix Community Centre. Students who volunteer with the St. Felix Centre spend an average of five hours on their feet, working hard to help prepare and serve nutritious community meals to the less fortunate. Through their friendly interactions with the community members attending these meals, ELP volunteers play an integral role in creating a welcoming and safe environment at the St. Felix Centre. This kind of volunteering work is not easy and yet every week there is a long list of students interested in signing up to attend volunteering at the St. Felix Centre. In fact, there are so many interested students that a lottery often has to take place to determine who will be able to attend each week.
As for the seasonal volunteering initiatives, ELP students enjoy helping out at a wide variety of music and cultural festivals, charity runs and much more. Students have often cited their volunteering with the MLSE and JaysCare foundations as being a particularly fulfilling and rewarding experience. During these initiatives, students assist with the selling of 50/50 lottery tickets at various sporting events. Half of all the money that ELP students help raise through these ticket sales goes towards supporting charitable causes in the community such as funding sports teams for underprivileged youth (the other half is for the lucky winner of the lottery). Aside from supporting a great cause, students volunteering at these events have the opportunity to interact with the public, practicing their English and building confidence in their speaking skills. What is more exciting, after the volunteering is over, students are given the chance to watch the sporting event that is taking place, whether it is professional basketball, lacrosse, hockey or baseball. It truly is a win-win experience.
Volunteering at the ELP is phenomenal—and our volunteers make it so! Each one of our student volunteers selflessly contributes a large amount of their time towards community building initiatives.
We sat down for a chat with Yui Yoshikane, an ELP student who has taken Academic English and English Plus and spent over 30 hours volunteering.
Did you know anything about the volunteering at the ELP before coming to your first meeting? If so, how?
Yes. My friend used to go to the ELP and she recommended that I volunteer. She said that it was a good opportunity to make friends. When I was in Japan, I really wanted to volunteer in another country, but my study abroad was in the same season, so I could not do that but now I can volunteer in Canada!
Why did you decide to start volunteering?
Because in volunteering, there are lots of activities that I cannot do in Japan. In Japan, we don’t have a volunteering system like that and opportunity to meet people who need help, so I thought this is a good activity. Also, it’s better to get qualifications to find a job in Japan.
How many different volunteer activities have you partaken in?
Around five activities: The ELP Food and Clothing Drive, FoodShare, Blake Street Breakfast Club and 50/50 ticket selling.
What are some of the things you have learned about yourself through volunteering?
I have learned that volunteers can have a lot of successful experiences outside the classroom. I realized that I like to do something that can help people. Also, getting involved with people from other countries makes me feel very open-minded. There are many things that we can do to be useful.
What are some skills you think you have had the opportunity to develop through volunteering?
I have developed listening and speaking skills. People who work with us explain what they want us to do in English, so we have to understand exactly what to do. Also, during volunteering, we talk a lot in English with friends. Usually in the morning, I stay at home but if I volunteer, I can talk and develop my English skills.
If you could pick your favourite volunteer activity, what would it be and why? What have you learned from this specific activity?
I would pick 50/50 for a simple reason. After volunteering there, we get to watch a professional sporting event for free and there are many games in Canada I don’t often watch in Japan. It’s good chance to watch Canadian sports.
How do you think volunteering has shaped your overall experience at ELP? How does it change your experience beyond the classroom?
I think volunteering is so good for students who want to learn English because when we volunteer, for most of them, we work in partners and this partner most often does speak a different language, so we have to speak in English. This is so good and helps our motivation to grow in the class.
If you could describe the volunteering program in one word, what would it be?