- Rachel Ma
- Dec 30, 2016
Vancouver Hospice Society
A fundamental tenet of my family’s values is giving back. As I entered high school, my goal with community service was to shift my perspective of community service from a school-mandated requirement to a passion. In joining the Vancouver Hospice Society, I committed to an organization whose objective held a greater meaning for me. Having had a nanny who spent her final months in hospice care, working for the Society gives my philanthropic work a more relevant purpose. When applying for the volunteer position at their Hospice Opportunity Boutique, which raises funds for the end-of-life care centre, I had numerous meetings with the Hospice board to demonstrate my understanding and appreciation of their cause. Every Sunday, I have the opportunity to work with inspiring individuals who share a similar connection to the Society’s worthwhile efforts. My responsibilities in the charity shop are to organize the donated goods, man the cashier, and interact with the customers, educating them about our cause. Now that I have been a part of the Hospice Opportunity Boutique for nearly two years, I find that the continuity of my efforts has embellished my experience. I have become familiar with frequent customers, many of whom have also been touched by hospice. While I am not eligible to work in the care facility, my visits are meaningful, as I can see the results of our efforts in the gratitude of the families and individuals who are so thankful for the home. Through my volunteerism, I have learned that the worth of service can’t be judged by hours spent, rather it is felt in the tangible impact it has on others.
When I reflect on my priorities and passions five years ago, I am confronted by the ironic dream of an eager pre-teen gymnast, standing at 5’10,” to compete in the Olympics. High school marked the end of my gymnastics career, as I reluctantly chose to pursue sports more appropriate for someone of my stature. Clad in my mother’s shoes and kneepads from her night league 20 years prior, plagued by nerves and uncertainty, I bravely ventured into the gym for volleyball tryouts. Looking back, having now played for two years on the Provincial team and intent on pursuing a varsity career, I realize the importance of that tryout where I resolved to overstep the boundaries of my comfort.
Over the course of the past 5 years, I have developed greatly as a player, and thus far one of my greatest athletic achievements has been my ongoing participation with British Columbia’s Provincial volleyball team. While I train year round for my school, my club, and my province, it is most rewarding getting to spend my summers training and competing with British Columbia printed across the back of my jersey.
My experience with the program began in the summer following my grade 10 year, where I was selected as an alternate for the Team BC U16 group that would compete at the Western Elites Championships. I didn’t get to compete that year, but it was significant for growth as an athlete and individual, as it taught me the importance of resilience and hard work. After committing to more extensive training off-season, the following year I earned a starting position on the Team BC U18 squad that competed at the National Team Challenge Cup. The training begins in early July with two weeks of intensive two hour training sessions twice a day, as well as additional dry land workouts. Towards the end of July, the team leaves our training facilities in Kamloops, British Columbia, where we have been housed, for the location of the national tournament. At the tournament, I have had the chance to compete against top players from each of Canada’s provinces, as well as meet the players and coaches of our Canadian National team.
The team British Columbia volleyball program has been integral to my growth as a player and person these past few years, and has become a key part of my identity. Athletically, I have improved my skill to a level where I am capable of recruitment onto a university team, but more importantly it has furthered my independence, taught me the importance of diligent perseverance, and enabled me to develop strong team building and leadership skills.
Experience Details: Cuba
I believe that in this era citizenship is not confined to national borders. Globalization has rendered us all global citizens, and in accepting this role I have embraced the importance of giving back to the global community. In the summer of 2013, I had the opportunity to pursue philanthropic work in Cuba with my school’s senior volleyball team during a joint service and training trip. While in Havana, we visited two separate orphanages where we split time interacting and playing with the kids and performing housework to help maintain their facilities.
This experience was particularly unique, as I was able to see the impact of Cuba’s socioeconomic climate on both the children and caretakers in the orphanage. The supplies we collected prior to arriving in Havana were of tremendous aid to orphanages, given the difficulty they faced finding the necessary resources on the barren shelves of the Cuban markets. Despite the adversity the orphanages faced, the joy of the women and children was unfettered. While the tasks we performed, such as cleaning the rooms and repainting the walls, were simple, their gratitude was truly genuine.
Returning to Canada after this sort of experience allowed me to see our privileged community through a new lens. I’ve become more aware of the adversities at home, after witnessing the trying conditions people were facing abroad. This is not to say that I don’t wholeheartedly support international service in the name of global citizenship, but this experience taught me both to appreciate the life I have been privileged with, but not make the assumption that equal hardships can’t be found in my own community.