2016 World-Changer - Jessica Vu

Imagine volunteering 1,000 hours to your community. Then imagine serving that many hours before you even turn 17.

Meet Jessica Vu, a volunteer with YVC of Calgary. As a 16-year-old who has volunteered 1,082 hours with YVC, she owns that amazing accomplishment. Not only that, but she’s still an active YVC of Calgary volunteer, so she may serve even more hours with YVC before she ages out of the program.

We caught up with Jessica to learn about everything she’s experienced in these 1,082 hours:

What are some of your favorite YVC projects?

There’s such a wide range of YVC projects that it’s hard to choose just a few, it doesn’t help that I’ve done the majority of them too (at least in the Calgary Branch). My two favorite projects that I do regularly would have to be Salvation Army and Inn from the Cold. Both of them are very similar task-wise, however the atmosphere in the two places couldn’t be more different.

While both involve packing lunches and serving food to those in need, the Salvation Army works in a much bigger work space to serve a larger amount of people resulting in a fast paced work ethic and satisfaction of helping such a large crowd of people, which I love (the free food to the volunteers is a great bonus as well). Inn from the Cold works more personally with families in need, and on a much smaller scale. Although it is smaller than the Salvation Army, what it does for the community is no less, and it can always be seen in the gratitude shown by the families that it helps. Every season there are new special events, they are so much fun that I wish they occurred all year round.

The seasonal and special event projects that I absolutely love are Alberta Theater’s Legend Has It, Tackle Hunger Football Game, Cinderella Project, Daraja Foundation Fundraiser, and so many more. Each of them had unique tasks and experiences. I love being able to witness the event from both an attendee’s perspective and a behind the scenes shadow. I wish I could do these projects all again!

Why do you think it’s important to volunteer?

I once read a quote, “Volunteers aren’t paid because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.” That is one of my favorite quotes to this date. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless every year in North America. Many of their situations could happen to any of us, especially in the mediocre state of the economy right now. Canada in particular is suffering right now, and the number of those that are in critical financial situations has jumped by a large amount. Without donations and volunteers these people would be on their own, without aid.

The people that need help aren’t just limited to the residents of our own countries either. People all over the world are suffering from political oppression or the lack of access to necessities to live. That type of life is something we don’t wish for ourselves, so how can we wish of it on others? Volunteers are essential to spreading awareness and helping improve their lives. Most people don’t realize that helping others also helps themselves. I once watched a TED Talk called “How to Buy Happiness.” It described a study that showed people were happier when they used money to buy something for someone else, rather than themselves. I personally believe that if one expects help, whether consciously or not, then they must be willing to give help. Helping others can give people a sense of self-worth and belonging. I also often thought of volunteering as recreation time to relieve myself from the stress of school and the drama that takes place there.

What advice do you have for other youth hoping to earn the World-Changer Award?

The biggest challenge is definitely time management. School should always be a priority. My excess amount of volunteering actually helped me with my school work. Like most youth I would usually spend my time procrastinating and then finishing my homework last minute. Since most of the volunteer projects were on weekends, the time I would usually catch up on my homework, I was pressured to finish at earlier times.

It also helps tremendously to have a schedule. I don’t mean just reminders on your cell phone, but an actual calendar with the dates, times, and addresses of the projects (with consideration of transportation) and other important events. I mostly transit to my projects as well and take advantage of that time to work on school assignments.

Another motivator is volunteering with friends. When I have friends with me I view volunteering as a normal event where you’re hanging out with friends, while giving a little help while you’re there. However, it’s not the easiest to convince friends to volunteer. When I started volunteering with YVC I had no previous friends who were volunteering with me. It was during this time I started to socialize more with my fellow volunteers, and as I began volunteering more and more I often made new friends or became familiar with other frequent volunteers. Some of my closest friends are people I met through volunteering.

Congrats, Jessica, on the World-Changer Award, and thank you for all of your service!

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