Viewing sunset on beaches, enjoying meals in must-eat restaurants or exploring a city’s must-see places are surely great ways to spend a vacation. But what about a trip where you get to do all of the above and also get be part of some raw experiences going on within a city? Armed with this question is when I discovered the joy of volunteer vacations.
I had taken up a short course of three months in Toronto and wanted to know the city not just as a tourist but as a local. That is when I decided to indulge in volunteering. While every city has its tourist attractions, one of the best way to explore it; is through volunteering. It’s a learning and rewarding experience like no other. You get to step out of your comfort zone and view the city through the eyes of its people.
Once in the city, I researched many organisations to volunteer with and picked Myseum of Toronto. It was founded as a way of providing the public with meaningful and engaging experiences with year-long programming that shares and explores the vibrant history and diverse cultures that are part of the Toronto’s narrative. Yan Wen Chang — the Programming and Volunteers Coordinator with Myseum since 2018 made this journey of volunteering one of my best experiences.
I volunteered for two events with Myseum. It was a great way to get hands-on experience in Toronto arts and culture. As a volunteer, I played a role of event staff during their events i.e. helping with registration and sharing information about the event with visitors. Perks included learning new skills, meeting Torontonians from all walks of life, and participating in innovative events driven by collaboration and co-creation.
“The most important question that a potential volunteer has to answer in the Myseum volunteer recruitment survey is about why they would like to volunteer with an arts and culture organisation like ours. I am interested in candidates who demonstrate genuine interest in learning about Toronto’s history and culture.” explains Yan who is the driving force behind Myseum’s volunteer base.
After many attempts of volunteer applications, Myseum was the one that was professional and quick with their response to my application. Yan surely made it easy. What makes Myseum unique is how well they take care of their volunteers. They ensured my role during volunteering is meaningful and interesting and my experience is as engaging as possible. Friendly welcomes, great briefings, trial runs and transport taken care of our some of the highlights of volunteering with Myseum.
What sparked my curiosity is the events curated by them. They not only give you a flavour of the city’s culture but also the history of how it all started. For example, Women of the Ward is a theatrical walking tour by Myseum that tells the history of Toronto’s first immigrant enclave, and some of the important women who touched that community and the city as a whole. The two days of volunteering was a journey of interacting with locals, exploring different neighbourhoods and participating in creating awareness of Toronto’s past.
“Many of our volunteers are newcomers to the city of Toronto and bring with them a wide range of experiences and perspectives that makes up the city’s narratives. Volunteer travel and vacations are a great opportunity to be connected to the sector, make new friends as well as learn about the the city that you travel to. I have had the pleasure of working with volunteers that come from different backgrounds, heritage, cultures and perspectives, that makes my position at Myseum of Toronto so meaningful and interesting” said Yan as we talked about her association with Myseum.
Today travellers are not just looking at beautiful sights and sounds, there is a wave of meaningful and experiential travel. Myseum offers programmes where one can connect with the city on a deeper level. Volunteering gave me a chance to know the people closely — about their culture, traditions, and heritage. Not only that, it also enabled me to tap into my skills, make the best use of them and stretch myself on a different horizon.
Volunteer vacations is unique in a way that travellers get to view the city through the eyes of its people. Also it an affordable way to explore a new destination with no cost involved. Travellers can meet make new friends and learn more about a city which no guidebook will offer. The deeper you dig through a city the more raw travel experiences you will have. It is an exchange not just of culture but also of collective human spirit.