School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Amanda with her little sister Becky

Amanda Tracey with her Little Sister Becky

What does it take to be a volunteer?

By: Amanda Tracey

The short answer is not very much at all. It takes a bit of your time and a lot of your heart. As graduate students it is really easy to get consumed in our daily routines. We easily get absorbed in our research and find ourselves not venturing far from our homes, offices or labs. Sometimes, when I mention volunteering to fellow graduate students, actually, more often than not, I am met with responses like “I don’t have the time” or “I wouldn’t be good at that” or “I’m not sure where to start”.

First of all, yes, as graduate students we are strapped for time. We are always reading papers, running experiments, writing manuscripts, mentoring undergraduate students, working as a TA … the list is endless! But sparing a few hours every week isn’t impossible and it also benefits you to take a well-deserved break and do something you enjoy.

Second of all, you won’t be bad at volunteering. You might be worried and nervous at first but, that’s an appropriate reaction to something new. As long as you choose to be involved in something you actually like doing, then there’s nothing to stress about at all! I have been involved in many organizations and the support networks available to you through the organization itself as well as through other volunteers are often very accessible.

Finally, getting started can be tough but the possibilities are endless, especially in such a tight-knit community like Kingston. There are several agencies that work with children and youth in a mentorship setting such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters KFL&A. There are also agencies that work with children and youth in a more academic setting like Pathways to Education. If you like animals, there are lots of opportunities at the Kingston Humane Society or with Kingston Animal Rescue. Interested in conservation or the environment? What about Society for Conservation Biology: Kingston Chapter?

Do your research. Find something you’re interested in and run with it! Can’t find what you’re interested in? Then start something up! The SGPS at Queen’s actually has a club fund award. As an avid volunteer with many organizations both within Queen’s, Kingston and abroad, I know  that volunteering can change lives, including your own.