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More Than Just 50 Hours

Calgary youth volunteers

More Than Just 50 Hours

Two months ago, as exams were steadily approaching, I longed for it to be summer. Perhaps it was because I could stay up into the wee hours of the morning without a care in the world and that the weather would finally be nice enough to justify eating ice cream daily, or maybe it was just because I was feeling extremely burnt out from school—like many of us were. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait until I filled in the last bubble on the scantron of my Physics final, and could say peace out to the ever so familiar walls of Churchill for two months.



































However, this summer is also my last one before I start grade 12, before diploma exams, university applications, and just general stress-inducing, hair-pulling, high school student things. I wanted to make the most of it. So, when I received an email regarding the SPF 50 Challenge, I immediately thought to myself, “Yes! This is it!”




































Now, you may be thinking, “Really, Jasmine!? I thought you were going to say that you’re swimming across the Atlantic, or summiting the Himalayas.” But, hear me out: for someone who spends most of her days indoors either reading, mindlessly scrolling through her phone, or playing Disney music on her oboe (instead of practicing like I should be), this was a BIG improvement. Plus, I was planning on volunteering anyways, so why not put my hours to good use?































Jasmine ZhaoI’ve spent most of these past few weeks at Summer in the City. The camp coordinators there are absolutely wonderful, and so friendly and welcoming. I was never afraid of being myself and having fun, while still making sure my tasks were being fulfilled. They’ve also given me some insightful advice on university and navigating the adult world in general. Not only that, but the kids are amazing too. Their neverending curiosity, seemingly unlimited energy, and ability to not give a care about what others think, are all some of the things I could learn from them. They’re also wonderfully hilarious in the way that only kids can only pull off. I never would’ve imagined that I would learn so much about pufferfish, and the beauty of “thicc birds.”



































Of course, I was also able to experience—in my opinion—one of the best parts of summer: the festivals. From Mexifest to Taste of Calgary, I love the energy, the music, and of course, the food that each one has to offer. To me, festivals really embody the spirit of summer: a time for people to come together, and enjoy the (mostly) good weather and each other’s company. It’s a time where we can submerge ourselves in the moment, and truly live without the stresses that life often throws at us, even if it’s just for a little while. I often find myself taking evening shifts, because it means I might be able to catch a glimpse of the sun setting. Seeing the pinks and oranges filtering between buildings still remains one of my favourite images.































buffalo fries at taste of calgary

I don’t have any pictures of the sunset, so here’s a picture of the Buffalo Chickin Fries from Taste of Calgary as compensation.
























I’ve also been able to meet new volunteers through these projects, as well as reconnect with friends whom I haven’t seen in a while. Green Team projects just wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t have them with me, talking and joking while sorting waste (trust me, it’s a lot more enjoyable than it sounds). I actually met one of my friends during a Green Team project, and our friendship has developed over the course of—you guessed it—Green Team projects. To me, the core of a good festival are the people; this couldn’t be more true this summer.





















volunteers at Taste of Calgary

Volunteers hard at work! (I’m the one in the middle)



















I don’t want to get too sappy here, but I’m really grateful for all the people I’ve met this summer, all the memories I’ve made, and all the lessons I’ve learnt along the way. Youth Central has always held a special place for me, because I’ve gained so many valuable skills, and was able to grow out of my shell (I really hope that I’m not as awkward as I used to be). I‘ve also been able to meet some incredible people, who not only share the same passions as me, but also inspire me to create change.




































Volunteering this summer was more than just completing the SPF 50 Challenge; it was two months of learning, laughter, and everlasting memories.




































This blog was written by YVC Volunteer, Jasmine Zhao