Tracy Ampofoh, a third-year social work student and member of the ASB Vancouver trip, writes to students about how volunteering isn’t a chore, but rather an opportunity for self development and growth. 

Hey! My name is Tracy Ampofoh and I am a third-year social work student on team Vancouver for this year’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB).

If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you have a bit of an idea about the ASB, but if not I’ll give you some background information. Basically the ASB program gives students a chance to spend their reading week giving back to the community local or aboard. It’s an opportunity to really work in a team and build a better understanding of our world and how we can serve others.  Sounds awesome right?

Getting a chance to go to Vancouver hasn’t necessary always been a dream of mine, but it’s definitely an opportunity I have been so excited to take on. Applying for ASB opened the door for me to think about what I really want to do with myself and for myself.  For me, community service isn’t all about helping others; there’s a deeper altruistic value. You know that feeling you get when you help an elderly lady cross the street and she says thanks? That’s what ASB is about to me, helping people as a means of helping myself. It’s not about the thanks at the end but the feeling you get while helping.  And not only helping by means of giving and telling people what they need and want, but really asking and talking to people, discovering their needs and wants, and more importantly listening to them and allowing them the space to  be heard.  Too often we think of giving back as this guilt trip we have to take a few times a year, by donating to charities and helping out at food kitchens. But for me it’s not about that, it’s about actually getting into the work, and into the lives of people who want that support and being there to provide it by their means. And that’s what I want to gain by going to Vancouver, a better appreciation of the people whose day to day struggles aren’t always heard, but are a part of our larger society. For me ASB is another step I can take to stop thinking about my service to my community as a chore but more as a right and privilege; an opportunity I have to make the world a better place, and even more so, myself a better person.

So far through this short ASB journey, I’ve learned a few things about a lot of things.

From myself, I’ve learned I can be quite resourceful and selfish. Being a part of this trip has required me to say no to other things and no to people for the sake of this trip. At first it was difficult, but after some reflection I’ve realized that this trip and experience is for me to create, and that some things will have to be pushed to the side for the time being. And in terms of resourcefulness I’ve really put my hustling skills to work! I have been able to get about 100 dollars in support within the first few days of announcing my trip and I expect this number to grow. The donations have taught me the kindness of people when you least expect it, and has really motivated me to go all out for this trip to show them that their donations are important and valuable no matter how small the amount.

In terms of Vancouver, where do I even begin? From our first pre departure trip, I’ve learned more about the city and my excitement only continues to grow. One of the things that stuck out to me is the split of the city. Some areas are rated some of the best places to live in the world, and then there’s places like the Downtown East Side (where we will be spending most of our trip) which is considered the poorest postal code of Canada. That juxtaposition really stood out to me and really challenged my perception of our country. For me, poverty’s existence in Canada comes as no shock to me, but the conditions of the DTES still did make me think about my current privilege and position , and have given me a piece of reflection I am still mulling over ( and I will try to explore in another blog post).

Overall, I am really excited for this experience.  I am ready to give it all and to experience something new and exciting. Keep posted to see what I get myself into!

Submitted by Tracy Ampofoh, a third-year social work student. 

To find out more about Alternative Spring Break, please visit carleton.ca/asb


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