Want to Be Valiant? Volunteer.

Often times, we can only hope to change the world.

Other times, we actually do change the world. It depends on the circumstance, the motivation, desire and even luck in terms of timing.

However, I feel that we can still take certain steps to benefit the world, even if it may just be with the people around us. I was reminded of this fact after strolling around the UCC the last couple of days and saw the tables harboring Western United Way, Southern London Community Services, and Western Stem Cell Club.

First, let me introduce Jasmine Ball: she has been working at Western Student Experience for two years and is this academic year’s sponsor for Western United Way. Western United Way is an organization that outreaches to “96 programs and 56 partners like Boys and Girls Club and Meals on Wheels.” While I was sipping on free hot chocolate and cookies, Ball informed me that this year’s theme is “Local Love.” Ball deemed that Western United Way centralizes on “encouraging people to get involved,” fundraising, and “bringing everyone together to make local love a focus.” Lastly, the organization observes what works well in other communities and tries to incorporate that in London. They also try to “bolster support” for identified issues within the city. So, make sure to stop by the UCC on the way to or from class before November 30th to check out all of the volunteering opportunities that Western United Way is connected to!

Another great organization I discovered is the Southern London Community Services . The two lovely sponsors I conversed with, Heather Molen and Kelly Clark-Emery, were more than obliged to speak about how they regularly give back to the city of London. Molen has been with the program for 17 years now, emphasizing that her “passion right now is volunteering,” and she enjoys supporting low-income families or those struggling with mental health issues. Additionally, Clark-Emery has been with the service for nine years but serving in the Westminster community. She loves the “great volunteers, family and children,” deeming that it has become this “whole great process.” Also, she focuses on “developing relationships” with both volunteers and the people she helps. Those that are looking for a chance to give back to the community should definitely reach out to Heather Molen or Kelly Clark-Emery through the attached website above. They have programs that are convenient in location and flexible with time, perfect for us busy Western students.

Now, it’s time to #getswabbed! With chapters all over Ontario, the Stem Cell Club at Western has been setting up fundraisers in the UCC and around campus for donations. Today, I met with Adriyan Hrycyshyn, the club’s president, after brushing the insides of my cheeks with Q-tips. To make sense of the swabbing, I was nominating myself to be on a list of stem cell donors to be selected for a bone marrow transplant. Hrycyshyn explained how there are over 1,000 people per year in Canada in need of new stem cells, however, most of the Western community is not aware of this fact and there is a certain stigma around donating. Hrycyshyn emphasized that the objective of the Western Stem Cell Club is to “break the stigma and show people on campus they could save someone’s life [by] signing people up to donate and increase awareness.” He indicated that most students believe it is a lengthy and arduous process to be a donor, but it is also quite straightforward. Students simply fill out a consent form with questions about their overall health, swab their cheeks, and patiently wait until they are anonymously cross-referenced to see if they are able to be a match. Hrycyshyn’s passion to help truly shined through in our interview as he was personally affected by a situation with a friend; he aspires to continue to “link Western campus to patrons.” After originally starting out as a club part of Schulich it has become more targeted towards undergraduates, reaching out to more members of the Western community. Though Hrycyshyn claims that it is a “needle in a haystack” situation for these transplants, there is always a chance that anyone could be the match. It may take days, months, or even years, but just by participating in #getswabbed for less than ten minutes, you might just save someone’s life.

After interviewing these amazing people who give their time, energy and love to the London community, I have gained the utmost respect for the act of volunteering. I realize that it is important to take care of those around us and our community so that we all thrive together. By dedicating a few hours a day, week, or even month, we are able to engage in the act of selflessness. In a world that constantly pushes the idea of independence and self-care, volunteering reminds us of working together towards a larger purpose in life: the concept of gracious sacrifice, gratitude, and human compassion.

If you are a Western student looking to do something in your spare time, visit any of these organizations, as they will be hosting more events and drives this month!


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