Today’s education system strongly encourages students to gain hands-on experiences in the fields that interest them. Science students commonly volunteer in laboratory or hospital settings, artists feature in art shows, and literacy lovers explore various forms of writing in the classroom. Wanting to go into social work, Garneau students, Shania Jasani and Saathana Karunakaran, jumped at the opportunity to volunteer in the community.
Ms. Goldenberg had visited their BSAP class during the first semester, introducing Ve’ahavta, a Jewish-Canadian organization that aims to provide the homeless with basic necessities. She had asked if any students were interested in helping others in the community. Ve’ahavta usually has a waiting list that is three months long for anyone interested in participating in the service, and Ms. Goldenberg co-ordinated the entire trip for the students.
On 12 April, the two students, along with Ms. Woodley, worked with Ve’ahavta. Over the course of six hours, Shania and Saathana visited and helped distribute food, drinks, clothing, and toiletries to the people lined up at several locations.
For the students, the experience was difficult but worthwhile. While handing out the supplies, they were able to hear the individual stories of the homeless, and could see the impact of their efforts. Shania said, “You can see the transformation on their face before and after you give them the items. There’s no smile at first, but then a huge smile comes across their face as they constantly say ‘thank you’ and ‘God bless you’”.
The students were able to have conversations with the homeless. Saathana said that one of her favourite moments was “having conversations with the ladies from the women’s shelter. It was heartwarming to see them smile and share their stories with us.”
Before volunteering for Ve’ahavta, Shania had planned to work with underprivileged children. However, after this opportunity, Shania is now looking forward to helping everyone—not specifically just children. She said, “This experience changed me in a way where I don’t care what part of social work I want to go into. Now it’s not just children I want to focus on. It’s everyone.”
Saathana also spoke about how the experience has shaped her view on social work. She “realized that doing social work is not easy. It requires a lot of strength to accept the fact that you can’t help everyone, but causing at least one person to smile makes it worth it.” She also said that she now realizes social work is about “having conversations, building strong bonds, and supporting people who may be struggling through obstacles.”
Both students would like to thank Ms. Goldenberg for organizing the event.