CISV volunteering opportunity in Canada
14 March 2019
Over the summer, Timothy from European Social & Political Studies joined a CISV volunteering programme in Fredericton that focussed on homelessness.
Timothy Sung, European Social & Political Studies
Two and half weeks after starting my CISV experience in Fredericton, NB, Canada, I couldn't have expected the impact it would make. Despite the relatively short time-frame of the volunteering experience, the insight that I gained on the topic of homelessness was wide-ranging and positively shocking at the same time.
With a group of 18 volunteers from 9 countries, including Canada, the UK, Brazil, Spain, Turkey and Portugal, we discovered the complexity surrounding the issue of homelessness. I went on an international programme not just to go abroad but also to view the issues at hand from a global perspective and with the participants coming from all over, this certainly provided that.
Each country's delegation prepared activities outlining the situation of homelessness in their own nations, thus widening our eyes to the specificities of the issue of homelessness. Aside from the cultural knowledge exchange, it also felt like we made a genuine impact in the community with regards to issues of poverty, housing and homelessness.
The activities that we engaged in included restocking food banks, serving and prepping at soup kitchens, helping out at homeless shelters and building a house with our partner organisation, Habitat for Humanity. While the work we did was of physical impact, the main thing that myself and many of the other participants in this project was its emotional side. It was so heart-warming seeing the people we helped and positively impacted. The living library we held with some of the homeless and other parties that are involved in tackling homelessness was truly an eye opening experience where we learned people's true stories and it blew all our preconceptions and prejudices away, emotionally impacting many of us. We got to know some of those with no homes better and better as our stay in Fredericton went on, with them recognising us in the soup kitchens and even on the streets, and the gratefulness they displayed towards us when we met.
This experience really made me think about how important relationships are to solving such issues and has really helped me understand the complex issues of human rights within the context of homelessness. With an interest in public policy too, this experience, especially being at the grassroots level and talking with the Mayor of Fredericton and NGOs involved with homelessness, has allowed me to better understand the nuances and dilemmas involved with such decision making in reality that can't be fully appreciated from an academic standpoint. But most of all I will take from this experience the global friendships. 'Building global friendships' is CISV's motto and I think that we not only achieved that as participants but within the community too.
Any opportunity that allows one to broaden their horizons as much as this did is certainly something to consider going on!