Sheetal Rikhraj: Ready, Set, Volunteer!

Meet Sheetal, a sociable, down to earth community leader who is passionate about changing the world for the better. She's outgoing, loves making new friends and works hard to imagine that one day she can create concrete change through politics. Outside of regular university life, she dedicates her time to advocating for equality and equity and supporting the community. 

Hi Sheetal, tell us a little bit about yourself! 

Hi, my name is Sheetal Rikhraj, I’m a 3rd year student doing a double major in Psychology and Political Science. I moved from Vancouver, BC for university at U of T to experience new perspectives and world views. I'm originally from Singapore so I believe I have a unique perspective of experiencing the best of the Western world and the Asian world. 

How did you start volunteering? 

When I was in Grade 10 I was required to join a club for volunteer hours so I joined the Me to We club which my older sister was a part of. I showed up to meetings and involved myself in the club to attain the needed hours. But I was not truly passionate in what I was doing. Then I was lucky enough to go to We Day and it was at this event which completely changed my perspective. 

I became passionate in important causes and fell in love with volunteering. Since that life-changing event, I started getting more involved in my community and volunteering. The remainder of my high school was spent volunteering for the BC Children’s Hospital. I became President for the same Me to We in grade 12, President of the Spirit Club, and an active member of the Youth4Tap club while picking up one day volunteering events to support meaningful causes at the same time. 

What volunteering have you been involved in more recently?

When I came to university, I knew I had to continue my hobby for volunteering because it gave me a sense of purpose and helped me build connections with my community. I have been involved in Alternative Reading Week, as both a participant and Project Leader, Community Innovation Projects, been a Community Engagement Ambassador, executive member of the Partners in Health Canada club for 2 years and an executive member of Lifeline while, once again, picking up community day events.

What does community engagement mean to you? 

I have always had the desire to transform the world into a more peaceful place where equality is triumphant. As I explored manners in which to make my desire a reality, I realized that volunteering aids in changing the world, one person at a time. Our impacts in the lives or causes we volunteer for make a positive difference and cause ripple effects of change. This ability and power to create such positive change motivates me to always find volunteering experiences for myself. Volunteering also makes me feel genuinely good about myself and the world.

Has being involved in community engagement benefit you in any way? 

Community engagement has benefited my self-esteem and helped me feed aspects of myself that I love. I like to view myself as a genuinely good and nurturing person and engaging in community building has helped me view myself as that. When I help people, I feel genuine joy as I see how my work impacts them, which in turn has helped my self-esteem grow. My experiences in community engagement has also helped my leadership skills and organization skills grow. I have gained tools to create a better future for myself that I would not be able to garner from doing other activities.

What advice can you give to those who want to get involved but is still hesitant or do not know how to get started?

The best advice I can give to someone who wants to volunteer is to take the plunge because it will be incredibly worth it. This experience is beneficial to your future career as it makes your resume looks polished, but more importantly, you learn incredible skills that help you become a better person. It is truly a rewarding experience.

Just remember to find an activity that you are passionate about and think you will enjoy as a horrible experience can forever ruin the chance of you taking the plunge again. Taking a risk and making yourself vulnerable to the possible difficulties of volunteering may cause you to be hesitant but remember that the rewards in volunteering infinitely outweigh the drawbacks!

Thank you Sheetal for your thoughtful and sincere insights!