By: Dennis Dong, SAAAC VOLUNTEER
Let me bring you back to around 5 years ago, when I was a sophomore at the University of Toronto, working tirelessly towards that degree that I have always dreamed of. Studying constantly is great for your marks and all, but I felt like there was something missing.
Throughout high school, I was heavily involved with giving back to my community and helping others do the same through volunteering. This type of work I used to do took a backseat when I started university mainly because I convinced myself I would not have the time for it. In retrospect however, I know that I was wrong. You can always make time for giving back, and that was what I was missing in my life.
So how did SAAAC come about you may ask? Well, my best friend was the one who introduced me to this amazing organization doing so much to support children on the autism spectrum. She constantly told me about her rewarding experiences working with these children, so I decided to give it a try.
I still remember my first day at the center. I felt as nervous as someone can be at a new place not fully knowing what to expect. But this nervousness quickly faded as we were allowed to shadow and observe more experienced volunteers. As time went on, I became more comfortable and was paired with a child that I worked with each week. I saw the progress that we made together, and that rewarding feeling is priceless.
I remember one instance where one of the children I was paired with at the time was always glued to his tablet and refused to complete any tasks. My goal was to wean him off the tablet and towards drawing, something I knew he enjoyed. By limiting the time he was allowed on the tablet and slowly substituting it as a reward for completing tasks, I was able to help him reduce his tablet time and focus on other activities. You could imagine the accomplishment I felt. This is the feeling that keeps me coming back.
Working with the children took me back to my younger days where I was carefree. The stress of everyday life dissipated after each weekly session. In addition to working with some incredible kids, I met amazing like-minded volunteers who quickly became my friends – we even hang out regularly. The comradery one experiences as part of the SAAAC family are one of the reasons why I keep coming back week after week.
So, this is my story of how I became a SAAAC volunteer and loved every minute of it. I think you will too.
You can also volunteer and make a difference like Dennis.