Introduction

This is a collection of resources for facilitating activities that will assist groups of volunteers in reflecting on their service work.  Reflection is important in order for volunteers to:

  • Develop teamwork, good communication, and community with their fellow volunteers
  • Process and learn from their experiences
  • Deal with obstacles, challenges, or difficult emotions that arise in the course of their volunteering
  • Evaluate and improve upon their service work
  • Develop a deeper understanding of related issues, such as poverty or exclusion
  • Enhance their sense of civic responsibility and develop a long term commitment to engagement and service
  • Grow, develop their values, and improve their skills

The reflection activities were developed, tested, and refined in the context of Student Open Circles, a charitable organization in Hamilton, Ontario that engages students at McMaster University in local service, mentors them as leaders, and encourages their personal development and holistic growth.  We provide events, retreats, and individual mentoring on campus, as well as a service learning program called Community Volunteer Action that recruits, trains, and coordinates student volunteers.  The students serve together in weekly groups throughout the city placed at children’s breakfast programs, afterschool clubs, homework help centres, shelters, and programs for seniors and people living with disability.  Each volunteering group has one or more student facilitators who are trained to act as a liaison with their placement agency, coordinate the volunteers in their group, and facilitate a reflection activity at the end of their service visit each week.  Although the reflection activities in this manual were developed in a particular setting, we feel they are readily adaptable to a variety of ages and to any group that wishes to reflect on their life experiences together.

We wish to acknowledge the many student leaders who contributed their feedback, suggestions, and ideas over more than ten years—there are way too many people to individually name here!  Additionally, we would like to thank the many individuals and organizations who support the work of Student Open Circles financially, without which these resources would never have been developed or put to use.