New fellow immigrants usually don’t have many friends in Toronto. They don’t know the city that well yet. They tend not to be familiar with what’s going on. As a result, they might find it hard to integrate themselves into Canadian culture. It also took me a while before I found the key that opens the door to the Canadian culture.
When I first arrived in Canada, the concept of “Volunteering” was somewhat foreign to me. I thought volunteering was something that only had to do with charities involving churches, schools and social work. To my great surprise, I discovered that most Canadians have volunteer experience. There must be a reason for that. So I decided to give it a try.
My first volunteer experience came to me unexpectedly. I’m on the mailing list of a Salsa dance group. One day I received an invitation to volunteer at the Toronto International Salsa Festival. The event seemed to be appealing. The time was convenient. It turned out to be an amazing experience where I met hundreds of professional level salsa lovers from all over the world. I learned quite a lot by practicing dancing. I also received tremendous gratitude from the organizer who offered full access to all workshops and parties during the 3-day event. It was not only volunteering, but we also had so much fun together.
Since then, I have kept an eye on all volunteer events. Through Teresa Tao, Group Activities Coordinator with WoodGreen’s Community Connections Program, I found out about the many volunteer opportunities within the City of Toronto. There are so many events going on in the city and every single one of us is eligible to be part of it. This made me excited. I went to the Metro Hall with Teresa for the introduction session and the interview.
This fruitful trip gave me a lot of information about the city, the culture, the events, and the history of Toronto. I met amazing people who make these wonderful events happen in our lovely city. Even better, I could be one of them. I strongly feel a sense of belonging that this is my city and that I carry a responsibility as a host.
At the Doors Open Toronto 2016, I started my journey as a volunteer with the City of Toronto. My first mission was to help receive visitors at the Faculty Club at the University of Toronto. Thanks to this experience I learned about this historical club for the very first time.
Early in the morning, I arrived at the front door of this 100-year-old house. As I rang the bell, I felt a little bit of trepidation. But as soon as the door opened, I saw a welcoming face. I was greeted with a coffee “fait maison” from the General Manager Leanne Pepper. Then I had a family chat with Judith Lewis, the President of the University Women’s Club of Toronto. My partner volunteer Mary was very professional and easy to work to with. Our captain Attila came to make sure that we were having a good time. I assisted the staff in greeting visitors, guiding them and answering inquiries. When I finished my shift, The Club Event Coordinator Michelle Wilson said, “Come back for lunch sometime.” I felt like I was home.
Since I started volunteering, I want to do more. Each event has many positions available. I can choose different roles, acquire new skills, and develop my talents in new fields. I want to contribute and in the same time, to grow.
Do you want to join me?
Guest Blogger, Elaine Ruijuan Li
Marketing & Sales Professional,Education Specialty