Mississauga students bring hope through volunteerism

  • November 9, 2011

Students at Mississauga’s Holy Name of Mary College volunteered at 14 different agencies to be a living sign of hope to neighbouring communities through their contribution of time and work.

On Nov. 3, more than 80 students took part in the school’s inaugural “A Day of Hope,” volunteering in Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Thornhill and Hamilton at places like Good Shepherd Shelter, Daily Bread Food Bank and St. Felix Centre.

“They were a visible sign of hope through anything from peeling potatoes to painting hallways to cleaning out horse stalls to serving the poor in soup kitchens,” said James McLevey, head of religion and chaplaincy at Holy Name of Mary College and teacher organizer of the day.

McLevey said he saw joy and fatigue when dropping by to check in on some of the girls during the day.

“There was an honest sense of cautious nervousness because for many it’s a new experience to go into a seniors’ home or a soup kitchen for the very first time,” he said.

Victoria Smirlies volunteered her time at St. Felix Centre in Toronto, a non-profit community centre. The Grade 12 student was part of a group that peeled carrots and potatoes, chopping them up to make soup.

She helped put together sandwiches, served beverages and set up a clothing table so everyone could help themselves to a free item of clothing.

“It opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone is as lucky as we are,” she said. “It was just great to see the joy that came upon some of their faces when we gave them such a simple thing as food.”

This was her second time volunteering at St. Felix Centre and she plans on going back.

For Grade 10 student Jenny Farlow, the experience of volunteering at the Knights Table in Brampton showed her how much work goes into a preparing a meal.

“These people work tirelessly from 12 to 6 o’clock cleaning and cooking and I really just helped them relax,” she said.

Farlow was in awe to see how much work the volunteers put in to helping other people, she said. The Knights Table currently has more than 325 volunteers.

Colleen Hayman also spent the day volunteering at the Knights Table. But instead of working in the kitchen, the Grade 10 student made posters to help advertise for the Christmas hamper program.

“I knew that stuff like drug problems, alcohol problems and poverty in general happen but I’ve never really seen it firsthand,” she said.

And while she was prepared to face that reality, she wasn’t prepared for the fact that people are “so much like us.”

“It was just really eye opening for me to see how doing something really little can make a difference. But also how lucky I am to be able to be one of those people that helps as opposed to one of those people that need help.”

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