“Volunteer”, for me, this word evokes being at the service of others without expecting anything in return.
A few weeks after I arrived in Canada, I heard about Chantiers jeunesse through CANAVUA (Canadian Volunteers United in Action)
Curious to see how it worked, I agreed to participate in my first project, but as a Black person, I was afraid. Afraid of rejection, and afraid of racism.
I arrived at the project site to a joyous welcome from Sarah, our project leader, and her co-worker. She introduced me to the other volunteers, who came from different countries and different Canadian provinces, with a big smile. After such a warm welcome, I felt like I was coming home. I put down my bags and shook off the fear of racism that I walked in with.
By the way, a smile and a great welcome is a sure-fire way to guide people towards a community and encourage them to work towards the community’s goals.
In that way, I left my fear of racism behind and came to realize that friendship has no language.
I had a friend from Mexico who called me Amigo. He didn’t speak French and I didn’t speak Spanish. Neither one of us spoke a language that the other understood, but we became surprisingly close and shared laughs, to everyone else’s confusion. “How do they communicate?” some of the volunteers wondered. We are still friends to this day.
Then we started working. Every volunteer selflessly helped the community based on their different responsibilities and I left the site with a great story to tell and new experiences.
As I said in the beginning, acts of service without getting anything in return don’t really exist. There’s always some benefit that we take away. Even the joy that motivates us to help others is a benefit that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Since 2018, I’ve done 3 projects. As I will soon turn 31, it’s my last year as a youth volunteer. I have no regrets.
Guelord Kabengele – CJ Ambassador