As the Volunteer Summit on March 25 approaches, we are profiling our many alumni who have contributed their time, talent or treasure to important causes and organizations.
Jamie Neufeld (BSc’13) graduated from the College of Arts & Science and is continuing studies at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Jamie’s volunteer experience includes spending summer 2016 in Uganda with Veterinarians Without Borders. She also volunteers locally with the Global Gathering Place in Saskatoon.
What specifically attracted you to volunteering?
When I was younger, I volunteered more out of a sense of obligation. Now it’s about reciprocating the experiences others have given me, and paying it forward into projects that I am passionate about.
What was your first volunteer experience? What keeps you motivated to continue to volunteer?
I participated in a program with the Saskatoon Pony Club that taught inner-city children how to handle and ride horses. Working with kids who were thrilled just to touch a horse, let alone ride a horse, awoke me to my privilege as a young person. While we fussed about which classes to enter in the upcoming horseshow, many program attendees had shoes that were too small and were caretakers for younger siblings. It was a reality check at a young age, and I am thankful that my coach, the late Elaine Partington, was passionate about providing this opportunity for all involved.
What types of relationships and learning experience have you taken away from volunteering?
I have made friendships with people who continue to inspire and teach me. In Africa, for example, I connected with the local people – Frazia, a woman raising four children of her own and three more who’d been abandoned; Vivian, translator with a heart of gold and so much love to give; Ronald, a ten-year-old who dreamed of attending public school and eventually becoming a schoolteacher–all passionate and positive, without judgement or pretense.
What is your proudest moment/accomplishment from your volunteering experience?
I had the opportunity to intern with Veterinarians Without Borders and spent the summer of 2016 working on the goat pass-on project in Uganda. The project was established in 2006, so we conducted a ten-year anniversary household impact survey to analyze project strengths and shortcomings. I interviewed over fifty women and was thanked for being part of a project that improved familial childhood; children could go to school, families could eat more than one meal a day, girls could afford menstrual products and have the same opportunities as boys, and communities were able to purchase water tanks and taps and a better standard of living had been achieved by many. Experiencing the impact that a collective of individuals has made over the last ten years was an outstanding part of any of my volunteer experiences.
What is your vision for the future of volunteering? How do you aim to inspire others to get involved?
In our connected world, any and all information is available at our fingertips; we don’t have many excuses to remain ill-informed or blissfully ignorant. However, it’s easy to remain disconnected from matters that we don’t see or directly affect us. Volunteering and involvement should be self-motivated, but sharing my experiences and encouraging others to pursue an interest or passion of their own might be the first step.