Volunteering is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences a person can have. Getting involved in a cause or program will not only enrich the lives of those affected, but yours as well. Instead of hearing from us about why you should volunteer, we asked a current volunteer, Lester Valenzuela, why he is involved and what keeps him coming back to SAMRU.
How long have you been involved with SAMRU?
Lester: I’ve been involved with SAMRU for the better part of 5 years, both in leadership/paid roles and through volunteer experiences.
What is your volunteer role with SAMRU?
Lester: I volunteer for many centres within SAMRU, but the space I’m most involved with is the Peer Support Centre. My role involves things like peer-to-peer counselling, helping with Free Breakfast, making sure safer space guidelines are being met, and reinforcing them in a constructive manner. As well, I am a part of seasonal volunteer work for peer support with the Season of Caring. As one of the older volunteers, I also feel that part of my responsibility in that role is passing along knowledge that I’ve attained during my experiences with SAMRU.
What drove you to apply to be a volunteer?
Lester: I was in an Undergraduate Studies class that assigned a project focused on student resources within the university. We were supposed to explore a service, and then share our findings with the class. When I learned about all the great things that SAMRU offered, I asked the coordinator if she could help me get involved in some way. I started volunteering for a few hours sporadically, started making friends, and it just stuck. Five years later, I’m still here!
What keeps you coming back?
Lester: SAMRU does a good job of making volunteers feel appreciated with events like Volunteer Appreciation or hosting events like SAMRU Awards, but I don’t think that’s the most rewarding thing about volunteering here. Volunteering with SAMRU includes you as part of a small community. You see the effective changes that you, as a volunteer, provide on campus. You hear the conversations about “how much free breakfast is saving their day”, or the looks on students’ faces when they get presents for their families during Season of Caring.
What kind of connections have you made since becoming a volunteer?
Lester: After being here for 4-5 years, you get to know most people in some capacity. I have met some really amazing people through my various roles. Volunteering for SAMRU gets you directly involved with what’s happening on campus. It makes you aware of events like Student Connect, where I got to meet with people in government, and other community leaders! Aside from events and exposure, it allows you to connect with students. One of the volunteers that started volunteering with me is now the Vice President External!
Tell me about the most fun time you’ve had while volunteering with us. What about the most rewarding?
Lester: Volunteering for Sex Toy Bingo is always a great time! The reward, though, is truly helping students that need it, whether that be with emergency student loans, with the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank forms, or with just having a conversation with someone about their day. So, I can’t say that I have a single rewarding moment that stands out, because I believe every day I volunteer is rewarding.
How do you think your experience with SAMRU will help you in future endeavours?
Lester: Honestly, volunteering has helped me learn about the goals I was to pursue once I graduate. They offer many training opportunities as well like Listen to Refer, working with students with disabilities, anti-oppression training and many more. All those training opportunities can be linked into many different fields of study and can help you develop valuable employment skills.
Any advice for students looking to get involved or volunteer on campus?
Lester: Students that want to get involved should just get out there and ask questions! Asking a volunteer what they have found their experience to be like is a great way to start. They are participating for a reason, and usually very happy to help. Also, asking a coordinator, or programmer, can be very informative! They know what kind of programming is happening for the year and they can point you in the right direction, helping you find exactly what kind of volunteer experience you want. I know it’s intimidating putting yourself out there, but the people you meet and the fantastic experiences that you garner make it all worth it. So ask!
Want to volunteer but not sure which area is the right fit? Come to our Volunteer Info Session on September 11th (4 to 5 pm) or 20th (12 to 1 pm) to find out more about the positions available and have all your questions answered by staff. The roles available are also listed here. Can’t make either of the Info Sessions but still have questions? Take a look at our FAQ page!
SAMRU is also looking for volunteers to assist with U Fest on September 8th! No previous experience or training needed. Not only is it an unforgettable experience, but you’ll get a free tee and snack for volunteering. #winning
Student Initiatives Programmer
Phone: (403) 440-7779