Meet Emir Rahman:
Emir Rahman is a 2nd year Zoology major at the University of Guelph who has become involved in Project Serve volunteering events through Student Volunteer Connections (SVC). He was nervous to participate in his first U of G volunteering event, Hanlon Creek Boardwalk Preservation Project Serve Day, but quickly discovered that he loved the atmosphere and the feeling of giving back to the community while connecting with like-minded individuals. He went from having some doubts, to becoming a Team Leader in his second Project Serve Day at the Donkey Sanctuary! Emir shares his experiences and memories of both volunteering events, the importance of volunteering, and advice for anyone looking to get involved.
How long have you been volunteering?
“Specifically with SVC, I started in October with their first volunteer event of the year. In general, in my community, I always like to volunteer where they have postings. I completed the 40 volunteer hours that you need for high school, and when I started I just really enjoyed it so I stuck with it.”
What volunteer activities have you taken part in with SVC? What was your experience like?
“I participated in two SVC events so far; the Donkey Sanctuary and the Hanlon Creek Boardwalk Preservation. For the first one at Hanlon Creek, I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t know anyone, so I just sort of showed up. Everyone that we were working with was really nice and supportive, and the atmosphere was a lot of fun. I ended up running into one of my friends as well! With these Project Serve events, you meet up with people you wouldn’t expect to meet. I didn’t think he would be there, and it was a fun moment and set the mood for the entire day.”
“What I like about Project Serve is that you basically just meet people that you probably wouldn’t meet in your daily life. It also gives you a bigger perspective of Guelph as a whole. I didn’t know what Hanlon Creek was before I went, and it turns out that I live 5 minutes away from it. There are so many communities and areas that I don’t interact with because I’m in my ‘school bubble’ but Project Serve gives students new perspectives of Guelph as a city.”
What did you do at both Project Serve events?
“For Hanlon Creek, we were building a new boardwalk because the old one was getting too rotten and unusable. We were giving back to the community by giving them a nice boardwalk to walk on in such a nice park. Now I use it weekly when I want to go for a walk! I was in the truck that was sorting the wood, and also helped carry the wood into the forest, so it was very tiring but a lot of fun.”
“I was a team leader for the Donkey Sanctuary Project Serve event, so when we first got to the bus, I was in charge of doing an ice breaker for everyone and helped to facilitate conversation throughout the day. I tried to talk to as many people as I could. When we went to the farm, I was making holiday wreaths. It really gave me a chance to talk to people because you were using your hands and sitting down. Other people were weeding, sweeping, and raking which we helped with after the wreaths. The people at the farm were very nice and fun to talk to, they told us about how the farm started and how it operates.”
“After the wreaths and helping to clean, I went to pull out weeds because there were a lot of invasive species. I’m a Zoology major, so it was cool looking at it through an ecologist lens, trying to identify plants and which ones to take out. Other people were also like that, so it was fun to identify things together! Project Serve does a good job of balancing giving back to the community through the work that we do, while also giving the chance to students to talk with people in the community and amongst themselves to make friends and get to know one another.”
Why did you decide to be a team leader for the Donkey Sanctuary Project Serve? What did you do in that role?
“I volunteered to be a team leader after getting an email that was sent to everyone who had signed up. Since I had already gone to one Project Serve, I felt comfortable to take on this role the second time around, and I would definitely do it again. Being a team leader is a lot of fun, and it challenged my facilitation skills! I was always trying to make sure that everyone was having as much fun as possible.”
What’s your favourite part of Project Serve so far?
“Meeting people, both by reconnecting with old friends and creating new connections! At Hanlon Creek, I got to know some other people who are musicians like myself, and we ended up making a band. We have some jam sessions now which is fun and awesome to be able to say that we met through Project Serve. Going to Project Serve brings people together who already have something in common (volunteering), but lets you talk and learn about other common interests.”
Why is volunteering important to you?
“I love giving back to communities and helping them, but I also just like learning about the community that I’m in. The work itself is something that needs to happen and it’s great to help someone out, but it’s nice to help them out while learning about them and their daily lives. It takes me out of my daily routine and gives me the perspective of someone else’s life. It also is a great feeling to be in a community of like-minded people who are trying to accomplish something. You’re giving back for a reason and you’re with a group of people who have the same thought.”
What skills have you developed while volunteering?
“In my career in Zoology, I want to either be in Research or in a World Organization who wants to help animals or the environment. Project Serve is kind of a stepping stone for that in my eyes. You get that feeling of doing something for the community, while also learning about different things along the way. I’m striving to work in countries to preserve nature or to protect and conserve wildlife through my career, so Project Serve feels like the baby steps to start something like that.”
“The team leader role helped me with my communication and facilitation skills because it helped me plan things like icebreakers and group conversations, and being more enthusiastic to start initiating conversations.”
What’s your advice for anyone who wants to get involved?
“Just try it! It’s really easy to just go and do it. I got an e-mail from the Experiential Learning Hub and it included the volunteering opportunity at Hanlon Creek. I had some doubts of going at first because I didn’t know anyone who was going. Everything’s scary the first time you’re doing something, but you need to cross that barrier. Know that it’s a safe space and super fun. For anyone who wants to volunteer and doesn’t know how to get started, my advice is to look at your e-mails! Going through e-mails is what brought me to Project Serve and got me to be more involved in my community.”
“Bring a friend if you’re nervous of going by yourself. This might be hard for some people, but just start initiating conversations. Some of my best friends just came from me randomly saying hi to them. It’s really interesting to think that if you never said hi, you wouldn’t have a bond. Initiating conversation can start anything.”