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Baillie Shuster wins Bnai Brith Essay Contest- Read the Winning Essay Here-

by Baillie Shuster , Age 17


How Community Service Has Greatly Influenced My Life

My community service has greatly influenced my life and has been an amazingly rewarding experience. I got involved in many of my volunteer opportunities because I feel that as a young Jewish student given all the tools and chances to succeed and be happy, that I should give back to the community that gave me so much and help improve the lives of those who are not as fortunate as I am. Through impacting lives, I improved mine even more. To see that I was capable of changing so many lives and putting so many smile son people’s faces is one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced in my young lifetime. Volunteering went from being a sense of having to do something because I knew it was the right thing to do to becoming such an immense part of my daily routine and something I look forward to. I learned valuable lessons from each volunteer opportunity I took part in and each one makes me who I am today.

One of my most educational and most enjoyable volunteer experiences was during the summer of 2010 and of 2011, when I was lucky enough to be a volunteer day camp counselor in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel. I felt this had a great effect on me, as I felt I was committing myself to a very important thing: my Jewish state. Volunteering for Israel made me feel like I was directly contributing to the well being of Israel. I saw how interested the children at the camp were to learn about Jews in the Diaspora and I was so glad I could show them that in Canada we care about them and learn about their country. I gained an extreme sense of responsibility throughout the three-week camps; I started to feel like their mother as well as their best friends at the end. When camp was over I received gifts, hugs, and many Facebook friend requests from the children I had an affect on and who also had a huge affect on me showing me the importance of giving back.

I greatly benefited form my volunteerism in the community through my work through Jewish Child and Family Services as a big sister. This year I have been a big sister for Jewish children for a single parent household. I take them once a week (every Sunday) for two hours. We do fun activities together, it brings me so much joy to se them smiling and laughing. This is important not only for the children to have a recreational outlet, but also for the mother of many children to have time to herself. It really made me realize that I am so lucky that I come from the family I come from, and as a result I should give back to those who aren’t necessarily as lucky as I am. These children have so much spirit and joy despite the situation they come from and they truly inspire me and make me want to be a better person by continuing to influence the lives of others.

I feel a sense of duty to volunteer within my school because the school has given me so much and so many amazing opportunities throughout my education. I give back to my school with pleasure through my regular involvement in volunteering within the school. This year I am a volunteer tutor for a new immigrant student in grade 6 from Israel. Twice a week I come to the class for about an hour and help the student with anything causing a struggle. English is not the student’s first language so I help the student understand the materials by translating them into Hebrew. This has greatly impacted me because I see now how difficult it is to be a new comer and I do my best to help the student integrate and feel accepted into Canadian society. Another reason I feel this is important is because I soon hope I will be a new comer when I go to Israel in a four months, and I only can hope someone will take the time to help me as I did to help the students in Canada. Hebrew is not my first language and I will feel the same feeling that she is feeling today of being lost in a place very unfamiliar to me.

A reoccurring themes throughout Judaism, is giving back to those less fortunate than we are. Throughout my educational at Gray Academy, we have been taught the importance of volunteering for many reasons and were expected to do so throughout grade nine and ten. Once we reached grade eleven and twelve, volunteering was something we would have to approach on our own, not as a mark for a class or to be allowed to fly to Washington but to do it because it is the right thing to do. I took volunteering for the sake of bettering someone else’s life very seriously and I constantly try and immerse myself in as many opportunities as I can. I imagine myself in the shoes of the people whom I help and I know that I would so badly want someone helping me if the roles were reversed.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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