Isabella Pan just wanted to find a place to record her 40 hours of mandatory community service. Instead, she ended up running a student-run organization in Toronto that matches students and others with volunteer opportunities.
She says part of her motivation was somewhat selfish, a desire to make new friends and get involved in something that would get her out of the pandemic-induced rut.
“I didn’t really have time to make friends. I was really overwhelmed with schoolwork and was at home all the time. It just wasn’t a good time for me personally, ”said Pan, who took over the presidency of Impact Without Contact earlier this year as co-founders Jenny Wu, Sophie Yang and Gracelyn Shi headed to the university.
She and the other eight student executives, mostly from the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton, are now working to expand the legacy of the organization, which was launched shortly after the COVID-19 hit to help people have a impact while staying safe.
“I think what COVID taught me is stamina and persistence,” she added. “If you can’t change it, you can only really accept it, and you should accept it wholeheartedly and with a positive frame of mind. ”
The pandemic has made it more difficult for Ontario high school students to record the community service hours needed to graduate, even as the need increased after many charities and groups were closed or limited to online transactions only.
Initially a newsletter on volunteering opportunities, Impact Without Contact has grown to become a portal for connecting people with vacancies and managing its own initiatives related to health centers, education. and public health.
The organization now has more than 1,000 registered volunteers in more than a dozen countries, with many still virtual opportunities.
The biggest growth right now is in nursing home work, which has shifted from long-term care to homeless shelters and delivered 200 care packages in October, Pan told Canada’s National Observer. in a video interview.
The Public Health Stream is producing a second season of podcasts that focus on the experiences of healthcare workers and others facing COVID-19, while it has around 30 student tutors providing support to those with difficulties learning online as well as some women in a shelter in Turkey.
“For me personally, my education took a huge hit during COVID. I couldn’t pay attention to the online courses, my grades dropped dramatically when we had to switch to distance learning, ”Pan said, noting that it was a common experience among his peers.
Pan, a grade 11 student at St. Robert Catholic High School, an International Baccalaureate school in Thornhill, north of Toronto, says she expects to do this work until she graduates. high school graduation and not sure what to do after that. .
“I don’t want to have to work 100 hours a week as a consultant or in a law firm, even though those are things that interest me,” she said. “I just don’t think that’s the kind of life I want to live.
“I want to work somewhere where they make a positive contribution to society, so I don’t feel guilty about what I do every day. “