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Adventures In Volunteering - Episode 5

Published: Jan 31, 2024 @ 11:11 AM

On this episode of Adventures in Volunteering we once again join our main character Jeff as he tries to kick his new year off by helping support an organization he loves. Despite his demanding day job, Jeff has found a unique way to engage in micro-volunteering that aligns with his passion for promoting anti-racism initiatives.

Jeff's story is one of balancing responsibilities and making a meaningful impact within the constraints of a hectic lifestyle (read: he just got a playstation and is trying to beat Spiderman: Miles Morales, jk kinda). As a first-generation Canadian born to Pakistani parents, Jeff brings a unique perspective to his commitment to anti-racism efforts. His personal experiences fuel his desire to contribute to positive change and create a more inclusive society for his children and future generations.

In the evenings, after tucking his kids into bed and winding down from a full day at work, Jeff dedicates a few moments to micro-volunteering. Instead of conventional volunteer work that may demand a substantial time commitment, Jeff has chosen to fill out a survey for VolunteerConnector to enhance its anti-racism approach. This form of micro-volunteering allows Jeff to contribute meaningfully to an organization he believes in without overwhelming his already busy schedule.

Jeff's decision to focus on anti-racism initiatives stems from his own journey as a first-generation Canadian. Growing up with Pakistani heritage in a culturally diverse environment, he faced the challenges of navigating identity and combating stereotypes. These experiences ignited a desire within him to actively participate in initiatives that challenge prejudice and promote understanding.

The survey Jeff fills out covers a range of topics, from assessing the barriers to participating in volunteering to gathering insights on potential areas of improvement in the volunteer experience. Despite the brevity of the survey, Jeff understands the cumulative impact of his contributions. Every opinion he shares becomes a valuable piece of feedback that aids VolunteerConnector in refining its strategies and fostering a more inclusive environment.

Jeff's micro-volunteering approach is not only practical but also showcases the accessibility of contributing to social causes in the digital age. The flexibility of filling out surveys aligns seamlessly with his lifestyle, allowing him to be an active participant in the fight against racism without compromising his responsibilities as a father and professional and a gamer.


Adventures In Volunteering, Again - 4

Published: Dec 13, 2023 @ 11:49 AM

For many the holiday season is bustling with excitement, joy, and the anticipation of what gifts Santa will leave under the tree, but some are not as lucky. As we join our volunteer Jeff, he is now a University of Calgary Graduate student pursuing his MBA at the Haskayne School of Business.

While Jeff’s family wasn’t wealthy growing up, his parents always provided a warm Christmas meal, festive family fun, a roof over Jeff’s head, and by hook or by crook arranged for Santa to make a stop at Jeff’s family post midnight-mass Christmas at Nan Dolly’s extravaganza (although this Santa was a shade darker than the one at Deerfoot Mall and looked suspiciously like Jeff’s Pakistani Uncle Tony). The spirit of Christmas was alive and well throughout Jeff’s live and it was something he never took for granted!

This particular December, Jeff decided to volunteer at Mustard Seed Calgary's Family Gift Centre. The Mustard Seed, a nonprofit organization committed to supporting individuals and families experiencing poverty and homelessness, hosts the Family Gift Centre annually to bring joy to those less fortunate during the holiday season.

Jeff's decision to spend his Christmas volunteering at the Mustard Seed was driven by a deep sense of empathy and a desire to make a positive impact in his community and provide the same type of Christmas he had experienced every year of his life to those who were less fortunate. He wanted to channel his excessive Christmas spirit towards creating a meaningful experience for families facing economic hardships. In the words of Jeff’s hero Will Ferrell’s iconic character Buddy the Elf “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear” and while Jeff wasn’t exactly qualified to carry a tune he did want to spread some Christmas cheer the best way he knew how: volunteering!

Upon arriving at the Mustard Seed Calgary's Family Gift Centre, Jeff was greeted by a bustling atmosphere filled with the warmth of generosity and the anticipation of spreading holiday cheer. Families in need were welcomed into the center, where they had the opportunity to choose gifts for their loved ones, ensuring that they could experience the joy of giving during a season that often magnifies financial challenges.

Jeff's role involved assisting families in navigating the gift selection process. With a genuine smile and a compassionate heart, he guided parents and children through the array of donated items, offering them the chance to pick out presents that resonated with the unique preferences of their family members. Jeff's enthusiasm was contagious, creating an atmosphere of unity and shared joy within the Family Gift Centre.

As families selected their gifts, Jeff witnessed firsthand the transformative power of generosity. The faces of parents lit up with gratitude, and children's eyes sparkled with excitement as they held tightly to their chosen presents. In these moments, Jeff discovered a profound sense of fulfillment, realizing that the true magic of Christmas lies in the ability to give and create lasting memories for those who may not have the means to do so themselves.

Throughout the day, Jeff's commitment to the cause became increasingly evident. Whether he was wrapping presents, offering a comforting word to a struggling parent, or engaging in festive activities with the families, Jeff embodied the spirit of selflessness that defines the true meaning of Christmas.

As the Family Gift Centre's doors closed on Christmas day, Jeff reflected on his experience with a heart full of gratitude. The bonds formed, the smiles shared, and the collective effort to make a difference reinforced his belief in the power of community and compassion.

Jeff's story serves as a testament to the potential for positive change that lies within each of us, reminding us that the true spirit of Christmas is found in the generosity of our actions and the connections we forge with those in need.



Adventures In Volunteering - A Part Of Our Heritage

Published: Nov 1, 2023 @ 11:16 AM

As snowflakes danced delicately through the wintry air, Jeff, a diligent University of Calgary student, found himself embarking on a unique journey. The opportunity arose during the festive Christmas season when he engaged in a group volunteering experience at Heritage Park. Little did Jeff know that this experience would not only deepen his understanding of Calgary's diverse history but also leave an indelible mark on his own life.

Nestled on the outskirts of Calgary, Heritage Park stood as a living monument to the city's past. As Jeff walked through the gates adorned with festive decorations, he was immediately transported back in time to an era marked by horse-drawn carriages, Victorian architecture, and the rustic charm of a bygone age. Luckily, he didn’t need a DeLorean with a flux capacitor to make the journey!

Jeff's volunteering involved various tasks, from decorating traditional Christmas trees to assisting with historical reenactments. Immersed in the spirit of the season, he found himself interacting with visitors and embracing the myriad stories that Heritage Park held within its walls. Each day brought a new adventure, one day he would find himself immersed in the role of a cashier in the penny candy store, another day he would be the editor-in-chief at the local printing press!

One particular afternoon, as Jeff stood amidst the historically preserved buildings adorned with festive wreaths, he met a historian who shared captivating anecdotes about the early settlers' struggles and triumphs in establishing Calgary. Jeff's eyes widened with curiosity and admiration, realizing how much these stories resonated with his own personal journey of establishing himself as a first generation Canadian navigating the Calgary community.

The Christmas ambiance added a special touch to this historical exploration. Wreathed in the scent of freshly cut pine and the sounds of carolers, Jeff discovered a harmonious blend of past and present. The experience became a poignant reminder of the deep cultural roots woven into the fabric of the city. Through this experience Jeff could also envision where he fit, as an integral part of Calgary’s rich culturally diverse tapestry.

As the volunteering days passed, Jeff found himself not just partaking in the park's activities but contributing to its preservation. His involvement in reviving historical customs and practices ignited a sense of pride in being a custodian of Calgary's heritage.

The experience at Heritage Park during the holiday season turned out to be a transformative journey for Jeff. It wasn't just about learning the history from books; it was about living, breathing, and experiencing the past firsthand. The vivid encounters with Calgary's diverse legacy left an indelible impression on Jeff, shaping his perspective and instilling a newfound sense of belonging for the eager young volunteer.

At the end of his assignment, Jeff's time at Heritage Park during Christmas became more than just a volunteering stint. It became a voyage through time, an eye-opening experience that unraveled the layers of Calgary's diverse past, and a personal journey that left Jeff with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the vibrant historical mosaic that Calgary proudly embodies.



From Zookeeper To Center Stage: A Tale Of A Boy's Journey Into Acting

Published: Oct 4, 2023 @ 10:20 AM

Every year, the Calgary Zoo opens its gates to thousands of visitors eager to explore the wonders of the animal kingdom. However, there's more to the Calgary Zoo than meets the eye. This is the story of a young boy whose journey as a volunteer at the zoo led him down a path to discover his love for acting.

Meet young Jeff, an enthusiastic and curious boy with a heart full of wonder. He was always fascinated by animals, their behaviors, and the stories that unfolded within the zoo's enclosures. Being born and raised in Calgary, Jeff had frequented the zoo since he was a toddler, accompanied by his parents who shared his love for nature and wildlife (read: wanted to shut their talkative little tyke up).

One summer, when Jeff was twelve, he learned about the Calgary Zoo's "Boo at the Zoo" event. It was an annual Halloween celebration where the zoo transformed into a magical, spooky wonderland, complete with costumed characters, pumpkin decorations, and eerie lighting. What intrigued Jeff the most was that the zoo was looking for volunteers to participate in this event. It was an opportunity he couldn't resist.

With youthful enthusiasm, Jeff eagerly signed up to volunteer for "Boo at the Zoo." Lo and behold he even got selected to promote the event on Calgary 2&7’s morning show. Little did he know that this decision to sign up for Boo at the Zoo would be the catalyst for a lifelong passion. As a volunteer, Jeff was assigned various roles, from helping with decorations to guiding visitors through the eerie exhibits. However, his favorite role was playing a friendly, animated scarecrow in the Enchanted Pumpkin Patch.

Dressed in a raggedy costume with straw poking out in all directions, Jeff spent hours interacting with young visitors, telling spooky stories, and helping them feel at ease in what could otherwise be a frightening environment. He quickly discovered that he had a natural flair for storytelling and engaging with people. Parents and children alike were captivated by his charismatic performances. It was during those magical nights at the zoo that something clicked inside Jeff’s heart – he had fallen in love with acting.

As autumn faded into winter, Jeff’s passion for acting continued to burn brightly. Inspired by his experiences at the zoo, he decided to audition for his school's mainstage play. After performing a monologue from the movie Good Will Hunting (“it’s not your fault”) Jeff was cast as one of the leads. His confidence and storytelling skills, honed during his volunteer work, served him well, and he turned in an Oscar Worthy performance (just kidding more like a Gemini winning one). With every line he delivered and every emotion he conveyed; it was clear that Jeff was meant for the stage.

As Jeff’s involvement in acting grew, he found himself dedicating more and more of his time to the craft. He began taking improv classes and participating in local theater productions. His dedication didn't go unnoticed, and soon, he caught the eye of local theater directors who offered him opportunities in professional productions. The boy who had once donned a scarecrow costume at the zoo was now stepping into the spotlight, playing diverse roles and winning the hearts of audiences.

Jeff’s journey from a zoo volunteer to a budding actor was not without its challenges. The demands of school, rehearsals, and performances often left him exhausted. Balancing his studies with his passion for acting required immense dedication and time management. Yet, Jeff persevered, fueled by the love for his craft and the belief that his journey had just begun.

As Jeff’s acting career flourished, he continued to visit the Calgary Zoo with his young family, to show them the place where it all began. He felt a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunities the zoo had provided him and the foundation it had laid for his love of storytelling and performance. He even had the chance to return to "Boo at the Zoo," this time as a guest performer, where he delighted in sharing his passion for acting with a new generation of zoo visitors.

Word of Jeff’s success as an actor spread throughout Calgary, and he became a local celebrity of sorts. His story served as an inspiration to young aspiring actors in the city, reminding them that dreams could be achieved through hard work, dedication, and a little bit of courage.

Jeff’s  ourney serves as a testament to the power of unexpected opportunities and the importance of following one's passion. What started as a simple desire to volunteer at the Calgary Zoo's Halloween event transformed into a lifelong love affair with acting. It is a reminder that sometimes, our true calling may be hiding in the most unexpected places.

As the years passed, Jeff’s acting career continued to soar, taking him to stages far beyond Calgary. Yet, he never forgot his humble beginnings as a scarecrow in the Enchanted Pumpkin Patch. Jeff’s story will forever be a part of the tapestry of the Calgary Zoo, where dreams are born, passions are kindled, and the extraordinary is just around the corner.



Adventures In Volunteering Episode 1

Published: Aug 31, 2023 @ 8:49 AM

By Jeff D’Silva

In the heart of Inglewood, Calgary, nestled among the vibrant streets, there existed a hidden gem known as the Loose Moose Theatre Company in the old Garry Theatre space. It was a haven for creative souls, weirdos, outcasts, the class clowns and the drama nerds. A place where laughter echoed and the imagination ran wild. For Jeff, the decision to become a volunteer there would forever alter the course of his life.

With a heart brimming with curiosity and a sprinkle of nervous excitement, Jeff stepped through the theatre's doors for the first time. The air was thick with an aura of artistic energy and hot buttered popcorn, and the walls seemed to whisper tales of countless performances from comedy heroes who had since moved on to the big lights of Toronto, Ontario, but whose humble roots started at this very theatre. Jeff was welcomed by the warm smiles of fellow volunteers and staff, each radiating a passion for the magic that unfolded on their stage. Some of the smiling faces from that first day would go on to become lifelong friends.

Jeff’s journey began with the simplest of tasks— mixing Lime Rickey (a mysterious green juice concoction derived from three healthy ingredients sugar, water and green), and “snogging” which he would soon learn is “Mooser speak” for set decoration during a show. Every moment was a chance to learn, to soak in the knowledge of the more tenured improvisers who surrounded him. Jeff found himself spellbound by the camaraderie and the unyielding commitment to storytelling. He marveled at the senior improvisers who effortlessly slipped into characters, transforming seemingly the most innocuous incident or suggestion into a completely enthralling scene in a matter of seconds.

As weeks turned into months, Jeff's dedication grew stronger. He graduated from the role of an eager observer to that of a vital cog in the theatre's intricate machinery. He helped build sets, paint backdrops, and even tried his hand at making masks. The process was exhilarating—a symphony of creativity and collaboration that produced breathtaking results.

One fateful day, while chatting with a senior improviser, Jeff's curiosity was piqued by tales of improvisational performances. The improviser spoke of not preparing, being obvious, and diving into the unknown with only wit and instinct as your guides. Jeff’s heart raced and his mind lit up like the top of the Calgary Tower on a Flames’ game night. He decided to venture beyond his comfort zone and embrace the exhilarating challenge of improv.

Under the guidance of the theatre's mentors, Jeff stepped onto the stage for his first improv performance. The spotlight illuminated his face, casting aside any remnants of doubt. He locked eyes with his fellow performers, a silent agreement passing between them—they were in this together. The game was simple, one improviser makes a suggestion and the others exclaim “Yes Let’s!” and act out the suggestion. The goal is learn to accept offers from your team, be open to failing, and have the most fun possible. The audience's laughter became an irresistible well of energy, and Jeff’s inhibitions, the shyness of being the awkward, skinny brown kid at his high school melted away like winter’s snowfall after the first chinook of the season.

With every scene, he discovered a new facet of himself. The stage became a canvas for his imagination, where he could be a detective solving absurd crimes one moment and a time-traveling adventurer the next. Each performance was a tapestry woven with laughter, vulnerability, and the symbiotic connection between improvisers and the audience.

As seasons changed and years flowed by, Jeff’s journey continued to flourish. He found himself not only a volunteer but an integral part of the Loose Moose family. As a first generation Canadian, Jeff had never really had a professional network, so his Moose family would serve as his lifelong collaborators, co-conspirators and sources of constant inspiration. His dedication was rewarded with friendships that felt like kindred spirits, mentors who nurtured his talents, and memories, tall tales from backstage, failures, victories, and lessons learned that he would carry with him for the rest of his life.

Looking back, Jeff realized that his decision to volunteer at the Loose Moose Theatre Company was a pivotal one. It had ignited a passion he hadn't known existed and led him down a path of artistic exploration and personal growth. Through the ups and downs, the laughter and the challenges, he had discovered a place where his human spirit could truly be set free, unburdened by his insecurities and the trivial annoyances of everyday life.

And so, the curtains fell on the story of a volunteer named Jeff, whose journey with the Loose Moose Theatre Company was a testament to the transformative power of embracing the unknown, learning to embrace failure as a tool for development, nurturing one's passions, and finding a second home in the most unexpected of places. Also, he learned how to make Lime Rickey, a healthy beverage that he uses to nourish his children to this day.