Volunteering Somewhere New

At the start of the summer, I began volunteering at the Fondation Jeunes en Tête. When I walked into the foundation’s offices, I was rightfully nervous. Starting a new job (paid or not) can be intimidating. However, especially in the case of volunteering, it can feel rewarding to be spending time in a place where many of your peers value the same things and are working to create change.

My first tip regarding volunteering would be to do some research on the foundation before inquiring for a position. As a person who cares about mental health in Quebec’s youth, my position as a volunteer feels significant and less like a job. Research, data entry, and translation can be unexciting tasks without the belief that you’re contributing to something good.

Another suggestion would be to try to accept every challenge as a learning opportunity. While you’re there to help others, others might be able to help you. As an Anglophone who speaks French but primarily socializes with English speakers, socializing at the foundation has pushed me outside of my comfort zone. In my first few weeks, I’d get worried that my French wasn’t strong enough, but the people who work with me have been widely accepting and supportive. Although I may be the only Anglophone in the office, this dissimilarity has proven to be an asset, with my English skills being used to translate French documents for the foundation. Though it might be uncomfortable, I’m grateful for the chance to improve my skills through practice.

Finally, ask questions for clarity. You’re there to help others and contribute your time, so do it efficiently. Concerns about asking “stupid” questions or being irritating are easily trumped by the convenience of getting it right the first time. Your attention to detail will undoubtedly pay off.

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