Submitted by Liz Bean, Coordinator of Volunteer Services
For nearly five years, Colin Baldwin has volunteered in ICA’s afterschool Youth and Family Services Program, which provides mentoring, academic, and social integration support for immigrant children and youth. Colin brings such compassion, kindness, and commitment to kids he works with each week.
About Colin: he grew up in Victoria, attended the University of Victoria and is currently pursuing his entrepreneurial passions in clothing, fashion, and embroidery. Here he speaks with Liz Bean, Coordinator of Volunteer Services.
Why do you volunteer with ICA?
It was 4 ½ years ago, I was 18 and just out of high school and going into university at the time. I started thinking about how lucky I was to be able to go to university and how my parents were able to support me. I was really feeling like I should do something to help out somewhere. I had never volunteered before, so my ideas around volunteering were kind of vague, and I really didn’t know where to start.
When I contacted ICA, I learned about their afterschool programs for immigrant children and youth. When I started working with the kids, I was super nervous, but it was really fun and a different type of responsibility for me. For the first time, I was like a role model.
I think there’s a lot of power in just being there for kids. They need to be heard and listened to. It’s important to get that dialogue going with them by asking the right questions and then listening. I do it because it’s the right thing to do with my Wednesday afternoons. It’s awesome and a great pillar of my week.
How do you feel after your Wednesday with the kids?
I feel a lot of things. It’s cool. I’m always energized. It’s exciting because it’s never exactly the same. It’s kind of like…you filter out all that other stuff you’ve been thinking about all week, and you go into this state where you’re helping kids, and at the end of it, you just sort of feel a clear mind, like when you’ve done yoga — clear and more focused.
How has volunteering in the program impacted your life?
Huge impact! I feel like I’ve really changed. I feel like I’ve developed more empathy. I’m better at communicating and I’ve built confidence as a leader. And thinking about my actions. Every single time that I come here, it’s important for me to think about what I’m doing, and how it’s being perceived. Life gets pretty chaotic, and we don’t always think about what we’re doing, but, because we’re working with kids, it’s important to turn on that switch. By having that practice every week of turning on your consciousness, you are choosing how you’re interacting with people.
You are serving as a role model for kids and that really means a lot. Who have been your role models?
Everybody at ICA for sure! When you come into ICA, it does feel like a different world, because everybody cares so much about what they do and they are clearly fulfilled by their work. There’s a real vibe and atmosphere here. And, also the respect, literally when you walk through the door. There is a huge amount of respect. I’ve worked in a lot of places, and it’s never quite felt like this. When you are around people who love what they do and are connected with each other and have respect for everyone that enters the building, it’s just a cool atmosphere to be in. Everybody I have worked with here and who I’ve come into contact with has been super inspirational, even fellow volunteers. I’ve gotten so many gifts from being here.
ICA is fortunate to have so many amazing volunteers like Colin. We really couldn’t do the work we do without the enormous contributions of incredibly talented volunteers. Many thanks to each of you!
For more information about volunteer opportunities, visit the ICA’s Volunteer page at: http://www.icavictoria.org/get-involved/volunteer/. Applications are being accepted for Youth Program summer and fall vacancies. Summer camp volunteers must be 19+. Afterschool volunteers must be grade 12 and above.