Hot Meal Program serves food and company
This past summer I had the opportunity to volunteer every Tuesday at the St. James United Church in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Twice a week there is a Hot Meal Program put on for the community members who feel as though they could benefit from the comfort of a good meal and even better company. Although I am a proud Antigonisher, prior to this I hadn’t taken the opportunity to really immerse myself into my community- getting to know my fellow community members and putting time towards something meaningful, something to be proud of.
The Hot Meal Program began in 2004 as an anniversary project of St. James United Church and has developed into a strong and important part of Antigonish. During the early stages of this program it was available one day a week, but due to the dedication and work of the congregation, volunteers and fund-raising efforts, the program expanded to two days a week in 2013. Not only is this program offered to community members two days a week, but every year on December 25 there is a huge Christmas meal put on at the church for community members. None of this would be possible without the dedication and selflessness of helpful community members and volunteers.
As a member of this small, tight-knit town, I’m aware of the huge impact volunteering has on the community. Being part of a university, whether living in residence or part of school teams and clubs, the relationships built with classmates and professors are essential for wellbeing. Students face massive amounts of stress we committing to university- the assignment and paper deadlines, midterms, exams, classes, all of this while trying to maintain a healthy balance of a social life and self-care. Typical suggestions to help keep stress at bay such as exercise, eat healthy, sleep lots, take a break are great but volunteering is a path to emotional wellness in my experience.
Often, volunteers are thought of as retirees, students who are involved with service learning or looking to add experience to their resumes. Volunteer work requires giving time, creativity, kindness to others, not expecting or taking anything in return.
In the short year of volunteering I’ve done, I have learned the extraordinary ways in which volunteer work can truly help a stressed-out student in ways that I never thought possible. When doing volunteer work, I have a sense of accomplishment that follows and I’m proud of the ways in which I contributed. The truly warm emotional wellness feeling upon nourishing a relationship with the community members is rich like no other.
According to research done by Stephanie Watson, a writer for Harvard Health Publishing, there are many benefits to volunteering, contributing to both mental and physical wellness. Volunteering is said to strengthen social bonds, combat loneliness and depression, give oneself meaning and purpose. Volunteer work allows for the development of more access to social and psychological resources, which are known to combat moods such as anxiety and depression. It has also been recently discovered that volunteering can lend a hand in maintaining a healthy body- decreases in high blood pressure were found, as well as an increase in physical activity and stress reduction, which contributes to overall health and wellbeing.
As a student with a very tight schedule between education and job, I encourage readers to immerse themselves in community engagement by volunteering. No matter how big or small of a commitment, volunteering is beneficial to the individual and community network.