Chris Eng and Ingrid White

Volunteers Serve good work in Oak Bay and the region

Serve program is an initiative of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada

Tim Collins/News contributor

Every year, young people from across Western Canada come together to make a difference and this year, they dedicated their efforts to Victoria.

The program, called Serve, is an initiative of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada. For 15 years it has put out an annual call for young people aged 12 to 18 willing to step outside their collective comfort zone to get involved with projects and people outside their realm of experience. The young people travel to a selected community where they undertake a variety of projects designed to simultaneously benefit that community and expand the program participants’ appreciation of the difference people can make when they put their minds, and backs into serving others.

This year, more than ever, young people have responded to that call.

“We have 312 youth from across Western Canada participating this year,” said Ingrid White, associate pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, this year’s host of the Serve program. “These amazing young people have travelled here at their own expense from all of the western provinces…and they’ve come to work.”

Together with Margo Lisik, one of the program’s co-ordinators at Emmanuel, White lined up an eclectic mix of work for the young volunteers. They helped out at the Mustard Seed and Our Place, did back yard cleanup for local seniors, volunteered with First Nations communities, painted in the community, constructed play equipment and removed invasive species. Program participants were involved in more than 35 projects to benefit the community.

“The program is designed to teach our youth that they can make a difference,” said White, adding that too often young people don’t appreciate how, together, they can work to make their communities a better place.

The program ran July 3 to 9 and saw the SERVE volunteers housed at Mount Douglas Secondary School where they camped out on the gym floor. Meals were provided at Emmanuel Church by volunteers who worked to feed the 312 hungry program participants.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Chris Eng. The 14-year-old and this is his second year with the program.

“Last year we were in High River where we helped after their big flood,” he said. “We were really able to do a lot there, but I think we’ve been able to really make a difference here as well. It’s amazing what we can do together.”

The program isn’t all about work. Every evening the young people gather to hear speakers who talk about how, through community service, it’s possible to live one’s faith, whatever that faith may be. Afterward, the young people are treated to a band and a chance to kick back and relax with new friends.

“I’ve met a lot of amazing people,” said Eng, adding he made lifelong friends. The teen also explained how people in the community offered insights and experiences as valuable as the work participants provided.

“These kids are amazing,” said White. “They have so much energy and enthusiasm, and they work so hard. I’m proud to be associated with them.”