By Rheign Morales
On Thursday, April 20, 2017, I joined fellow YMCA youth volunteers Delson Villamor and Janice Zhou in being recognized for five years of dedicated volunteerism focused on creating safe spaces where newcomers feel welcome in their new communities.
I became a Canadian citizen in 2014. My life in the Philippines was very different: academics were highly valued, but without community involvement requirements. Getting involved with the YMCA’s Newcomer Youth Leadership Development Program was an important part of my transition to Canada, and a very rewarding experience.
Through the Y, I was able to connect with more people and give back to my community.
Being a part of the YMCA also helped me learn to step out of my comfort zone to discover qualities that I did not know I possessed. For instance, in my role as a NYLD program mentor, I’ve conducted workshops for participants, planned conferences for different groups, and made connections with people from all over Ontario. One workshop I conducted was the “Global Awareness Project” about global warming and the impact of improper waste management. Through this workshop, the NYLD group has begun to use recyclable products and has committed to a community clean up every season.
In addition to being recognized by the Y, my volunteer work and extracurricular activities earned me a service award at my school for going above and beyond the required 40 community involvement hours required to graduate high school in Ontario. Through my involvement with the NYLD program, I have built community connections through volunteer activities, and developed communication, leadership, facilitation, and program planning skills which have been beneficial in all aspects of my life.