The COVID-19 pandemic has created a paradox in which the need for community organizations has increased but the ability to receive volunteer support has decreased. This issue exists because public health has placed limitations on group gatherings, resulting in community organizations being forced to step back from hosting volunteer groups. To combat this issue, the Student Experience Office has created the Community Partnership Project, described as “a project-based experiential learning program that connects Carleton students with community organizations […] in Canada”. The program offers modules focusing on community-engaged learning and project management spanning four months and the opportunity for students to spend their winter reading week working in remote support positions centring on “the research, planning, and execution of COVID-19 transformation initiatives”.
I have had a long-lasting passion for volunteering for as long as I can remember and have found it to be an energizing and fulfilling experience. It has provided me with opportunities to learn and demonstrate new skills while discovering more about the causes I support. If you have ever lent a hand to someone in need without expecting anything in return, then you know the sense of satisfaction and achievement that you feel when you do something unselfish. Volunteering gives you that same warm feeling, something that has been studied by positive psychology. This area of psychology has been defined as having “an emphasis on happiness, well-being, and positivity”. A study focused on the interaction of positive psychology and volunteering found that “in general, people with greater wellbeing invest more hours in volunteer service work [….] and volunteer work promotes positive well-being”. This positive cycle between the act of volunteering and an increase in emotional well-being shows that “voluntar[ily] attending meetings of other social groups significantly increases happiness, life satisfaction, and physical health [alongside] significantly decreas[ing] depression”.
As the Wellness and Spirituality Project Assistant at the Spirituality Centre, I have been able to analyze the study’s findings through a spiritual lens, defined as “a lens of love and compassion and a desire to be of service to others [that allows one] to find and offer hope, empowerment, and support for life’s journey”. Through my analysis, I have learned that I value the ability to make a difference in the world through my dedication to a cause that gives my life meaning and purpose. I have found this purpose to be an inexhaustible drive that informs me of what I wish to attend to in life and what I need to step away from when it doesn’t support my higher purpose. In making a difference in the world, I am committed to being of service to others and this has therein transformed my own life; I am constantly working on myself to be of help to others. I understand that my knowledge isn’t “complete”—there are always gaps, biases, limitations, and prejudices within myself, but I have found that having a loving, compassionate heart, and being open to see, learn, and experience new things provides a foundation in my life to facilitate lifelong learning and service.
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