Two years ago, I found myself facing a new challenge. I was applying to Simon Fraser University’s Business program; to say that it was competitive to receive admission would have been an understatement. One thing I realized was that I was lacking extra curricular activities.
I have never been much of an athlete, so the obvious route to take was volunteering. If I were to dedicate my time and energy, I wanted to put it towards a good cause that would make a difference in peoples’ lives. The light bulb moment hit me and I decided the good cause would be the Surrey Food Bank.
After filling out my application and going through the volunteer registration process, I worked my first shift and it was quite the eye-opening experience. I was stationed on the food hamper distribution table and I was astonished by the sheer number of people that were lined up. It looked as if I was staring at a line for an amusement park ride. After about an hour into the shift, I noticed a woman a few heads down. I noticed this particular woman out of the large crowd because she was quietly crying.
As the line kept moving, curiosity had me looking at her ever so often. I assumed she was upset because of the circumstances she must be facing. The line continued and I noticed she had a young girl accompanying her… her daughter I assumed. Finally, it was her turn and as she walked up to me, I realized she was not crying because she was sad or upset but she was crying because she was relieved. The look on her face was all that I needed to understand that I had stumbled on something much more than just extra curricular credit. It was a moment of clarity for me.
She was relieved. Relieved that her daughter would have dinner that night and they could momentarily forget their worries about where their next meal would come from. Words were not needed for me to know this. All it took was that look on her face.
From that point on, the cause I was volunteering for meant even more to me. Even though we live in what is arguably the best place in the world, there are still many who struggle just to put food on the table. In one four-hour shift, more than a hundred families receive aid from the Food Bank. Many of these families have young children, even infants, that look to the Surrey Food Bank for support. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to make a genuine and positive difference in an astounding number of lives. After each and every shift, I walked away with a satisfied feeling. I had made a person’s life just a little bit easier that day (a little corny, but true).
Perhaps the most significant surprise for me, and I’m sure others as well, was that the people that receive aid from the Food Bank are no different from “ordinary people.” Many may think of a stereotypical scruffy “hobo” when they think Food Bank, but the truth of the matter is that the large majority of the customers are people who are facing hard times. I was surprised to see neighbours, old classmates and even co-workers come through for help. However, given the weak economy and unforgiving job market, it should not have been a surprise. We are facing tough times and in this holiday season, we need to keep our less fortunate community members in mind.
The Surrey Food Bank accumulates the majority of its annual inventory and donations in the holiday season. However, the Food Bank is not immune to hardships. Earlier in the year, the Surrey Food Bank ran out of food to distribute and had to resort to buying inventory to ensure those that need aid would not go without.
Please help those in need these holidays and consider helping your local Food Banks. Canned food, cash donations and your time are always in high demand and are greatly appreciated. If you are lucky, you may even experience a moment of clarity like I did.