Volunteering

So last week I decided enough was enough; I had to get out and do some work, even if it was unpaid work. There’s actually a really useful website in Grande Prairie concerning volunteering that you can check out here. It’s where I started browsing to figure out how I could get involved in the community, all the while doing something I like.

The first thing that struck my eye was the Art Gallery. Most of the people I’ve met in town aren’t so much the artsy type, so I hadn’t really taken the time to immerse myself in arts and culture since I got here. I sent an e-mail to the Art Gallery to let them know I would be interested in volunteering some of my time to help out, although I had no clue what to expect in terms of what kind of work I would actually be doing.
Turns out they’re super organized and all I had to do was fill out a form to let them know what kind of activities I would like to help out with, how often I would be available to volunteer, etc. Super easy, super quick. A few days later, I made my way over to the Montrose Cultural Centre – and yes, I did get lost. I met up with this warm and friendly employee named Melanie who gave me the grand tour of the different galleries. We also talked for a bit to get to know each other, and she introduced me to all the staff.

My first day on the “job” was on Wednesday. I arrived to the gallery a little early – I didn’t get lost this time and I even found free parking! I was introduced to a woman named Sabine that morning and was told that I would be helping her out. They had already explained that my job was to take pictures of the art projects to keep for archives, but it was great to have someone explain what exactly they were looking for and how it would all go about.

After I was all set up, I got to work with this AMAZING DSLR Canon camera – holy God, I’m almost scared to Google the cost of this camera. The picture quality was impressive and I couldn’t help but feel envious that they had this incredible piece of technology and yet no one seemed capable of using it to its full potential. In any case, I had loads of fun playing with that for a few hours, even if it was just simple pictures of art work on a white platform.

The battery of the camera actually died about an hour before I was done my volunteering so I went upstairs to find someone who might be able to help me out. Sabine and another employee went looking for the charger while I chatted with Melanie at the front desk. Once they found the charger, they went to get that set up and Sabine put me to work on another project that consisted of deconstructing old projects so that they could reuse the materials for new projects.

But enough of the boring stuff…

Today is when the real fun started! I’m going to be completely honest: I was not looking forward to today. All week, I was debating whether or not I should make an excuse and ditch the plans. I don’t know why I felt so uneasy about the idea of it, but part of me kept saying “I don’t want to do this!” I’m not sure if it was the pressure of having to work with kids again, if it was just the fact that it was finally turning into a commitment, or what. Regardless, I was feeling it. The doubt, the assumption of anxiety that was to come. But I convinced myself I needed to be willing to reach outside my comfort zone, expand my horizons and to get involved even when it feels difficult. And you know what? I am really happy I did.

I got there a little past noon because – surprise, surprise – I got lost again. I met up with Sabine right away and we went down to the classroom in the basement so that she could explain the steps of the activity for today. She hadn’t had lunch yet though, so she went to eat and I continued taking photos of the art projects.

The kids started arriving a bit earlier than we expected, but Sabine is a pro and had set out sketch pads for the kids to draw in during free time. I was pleasantly surprised at how well I handled myself at the beginning. I kept assuming I wouldn’t know how to react to interacting with english kids, but I actually felt pretty comfortable and tried to connect with all of the kids by talking with them and asking them questions about their art work and about themselves. You could tell that they really loved being there and were all super polite and well-behaved.
We started the activity as soon as the two last kids settled into their seats. The theme of the activity was “Trees,” based on the exhibit we would be visiting later that afternoon. The kids started off by using oil pastels to outline tree trunks on their paper. Next up was painting the background in 3 parts using water colours. I was both surprised and impressed that each of them had a different perspective about the project. They asked lots of questions to see if they could use a different style, or mix different colours, or use different materials, etc. As they progressed, you could really see how unique each piece was, even when you compared two sisters who obviously liked to create the same style of art.

We wanted to give the water colours time to dry, so Sabine explained to them that we would now be heading upstairs to go see all the art in the exhibit currently on display. This is the main reason she said she would need a volunteer. She was worried that most of the children had never been in an art gallery before and therefor would have a hard time obeying all the rules. They were fantastic though, and always eager to learn more about each piece of art that we observed. Sabine asked them lots of questions too as she explained the meaning of the different paintings and sculptures, and the kids always gave great answers. I actually stopped for a minute to take some picture of Sabine leading the group and it hit me. I am having so much fun right now.

I had told Sabine that I would be heading out at 3:00PM that day, even though the activity wasn’t over until 3:15PM. When it was time for me to go, she asked everyone to say goodbye to me and I almost teared up seeing all those cuties waving and shooting goodbye.

I can’t wait to volunteer there again!

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