The theme for National Volunteer Week 2021 taking place this week across Canada is, "The Value of One, The Power of Many." It is an annual recognition of everyone who selflessly gives of their time, effort and expertise in service to others.
Banding together, pitching in and sharing acts of kindness within the local community and beyond has taken on even deeper meaning during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
At St. Michael's College School, acts of Christian and community service are tightly woven into the fabric of student and school life in myriad ways.
A current example of service in action comes via a Grade 12 student and his ongoing service to Hand Up Toronto, a charity whose mission is to provide "a hand up to those in need within the Greater Toronto Area," according to its website, describing "it will go to those areas that require a hand up, providing ready-made meals, nutritional supplements and hygiene necessities."
Since November 2020, Ford Camacho, an SMCS student since Grade 9 has been actively involved in making a difference in his community.
"Twice a month, he delivers groceries to 12 families who have been impacted by the pandemic," says his mom. "We're proud of what he's doing!"
In this Q&A, Camacho describes his service initiative and its impact, in his own words:
How did you come to be involved in Hand Up Toronto?
With the past year being difficult for so many families, I wanted to help out in any way I could. Hand Up Toronto was able to offer a safe initiative for volunteers like myself to help out.
In what ways do you support/volunteer with this organization?
This organization packages boxes with food and other essential items for families. I pick up the boxes at their warehouse and deliver them to families along my route.
When did you start and how often do you volunteer?
The program started in November of last year and continues until the end of April.
I complete my deliveries to a number of families every second Saturday.
Why was it important for you to participate in this particular service initiative?
Seeing how badly the pandemic impacted so many people in our city made me want to help out. With many food banks unable to operate due to safety reasons, this organization gave me an opportunity to help those in need.
Where else have you volunteered?
I have previously volunteered through other organizations such as Out of the Cold, Habitat for Humanity, and Engage for Change.
What would you say you have learned in your service to Hand Up Toronto?
This experience has taught me that despite the obstacles faced, there is always something we can do to make someone’s life a little better.
What have you learned about yourself?
I have learned not to take anything for granted and be more appreciative of the opportunities that I have.
What does service, generally, mean to you in your life?
I believe it is important to look for ways to give back to my community. My family has taught me to do what I can to help others and that we will all need help at some point in our lives.
Is there a particular volunteer/service initiative you have participated in that has had a deep impact on you? Which one and why?
Probably my experience with Hand Up, as this year in particular, I have more of an understanding of the situation and the need out there. I’ve been able to connect with these families, and especially their kids over the past six months which has been rewarding.
What have you learned about service during your time at SMCS? How has that impacted you?
Service is a big part of the culture at SMCS and I believe it is important to practice it in your own life. Serving the broader community has become an important part of my life over the years. I think it is really important for us to contribute. Whether it’s a big or small action, it can go a long way to helping these families.
National Volunteer Week 2021 runs from April 18-24, 2021.