How to have a Great Summer amid a Global Pandemic

Eddie, Open Circle student

by Eddie Chow, student

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, my summer plans fell through. My in-person classes were cancelled for the unforeseen future and I was sequestered at home with the rest of my family for the remainder of second semester. Although it was nice to see my family again, being quarantined with them for an indefinitely long time was somewhat suffocating. Also, every store and restaurant was closed, so the prospect of going out or even finding a job was eliminated. I was bound to stay home, doomed to eternal boredom. However, the shining light in that fog was the volunteering I did with my Student Open Circles volunteer group.

This summer was also my first time facilitating a volunteer group. The online aspect of the experience only added to how daunting it was. However, my co-facilitator was very supportive and the mere presence of all the volunteers I worked with motivated me to do a good job. I knew I had to be a good example for those who looked up to me as their leader. Perhaps it was everyone’s approachable demeanours, but I cherished the intimate discussions during our reflection sessions regarding our volunteer work and our personal lives. Not only was it a valuable opportunity to exercise my leadership skills, but in those moments of vulnerability, I recognized I was helping to forge deep connections and empathy between us volunteers.

Furthermore, the actual volunteer work itself was something I found personally transformative. In the first half of the summer, my volunteer group helped immigrant youth with their homework. When high school ended, we moved on to a summer camp where we assisted with activities for children. The challenge of volunteering virtually was a chance to be creative in the way we assist people. I managed to make some positive change in their life, even if it was something trivial like answering a homework question or dancing to a song.

Even though I couldn’t adhere to my original summer plans, facilitating a volunteer group provided me with gratifying work, relationship building, and interpersonal skill development. At the end of the day, I’d say that I had a great summer, even amid a global pandemic!