Staying Connected to Community
by Mohammad Jafari, student leader
This past year, Mohammad led a Student Open Circles weekly volunteer group at the Newcomer Youth Centre, mentoring and tutoring recent immigrant youth.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt disconnected from the community that I was involved with for over four years. Given the circumstances and social distancing guidelines, I thought it would be very difficult to become connected with my community again. However, after reaching out to Student Open Circles for possible volunteering opportunities, I was amazed at how quickly they adjusted their programs based on social distancing guidelines and provided volunteers with multiple pathways that they can stay involved with our community. They’ve done a fantastic job of making online volunteering as close to in-person volunteering as possible by suggesting new methods and ideas for group reflections. Student Open Circles has created an organized and safe space for volunteers to discuss and share their ideas. Moreover, online volunteering has pushed me to become more creative as a group facilitator in my reflection ideas for volunteers so that they would grow as much as through in-person reflections. Since the pandemic started and most courses went online, I initially found it difficult to attend online classes on time and stay on top of work. By volunteering every week and attending regular leadership training sessions, I believe I have become more responsible and am able to better manage my time. This in turn has helped me to stay on top of important activities such as schoolwork and spending time with my family. Last but not least, thanks to Open Circle, I have been able to make new friends which otherwise would be difficult given the current circumstances of the pandemic.