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The Montreal Experience: Student Feedback

During the week of March 14th, secondary four students volunteered for the week at either Benedict Labre House, St. Michael's Mission, Open Door Day Centre, Nazareth House, Montclair Residence, Manoir Beaconsfield, MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, Mackay Satellite School at Westmount High School, Philip E. Layton School, Mackay Centre School, or l'Arche.

Here are some of the students' thoughts on the experience:

Overall the impressions I had were very good. At first I was a bit shy because I had not really spent that much time with people with mental disabilities, but this didn't last very long because the people there were super welcoming and fantastic to work with. I honestly had a good time. You could tell while you were working there the care and effort the staff put into these people, helping them reach their full potential in society. I found L'arche de Montreal a fantastic cause to help in.

I had an amazing time. I was surprised that I enjoyed it that much. The staff was great and all the elders were kind and even had a sense of humor. It was an amazing experience and I would want to do it for my CSP and I would even do another week of this place for my experience week. I learned a lot from it, especially respect. I learned how to give people my utmost respect at all times and how to treat others more efficiently. There were very few down points of the week. When I first went I wasn't very excited at the prospect of spending a week with a bunch of elders though it didn't ruin my positivity. After my first day I knew I would enjoy the week. It was one of my favorite weeks of the year so far.

Before doing the Montreal Experience, I thought of it as an obligation that I will not enjoy doing. However, I was completely wrong. The entire week at the Mackay Centre School was an eye-opener to me, and was my favorite CSP in my four years. For the first day, I helped the French teacher in the morning. The majority of the kids in those classes had speech impediments and it was very challenging for them to read and talk. In the afternoon, we went to the pool. The first swimming class was for kids that could not walk and have trouble controlling their body's movements. They were placed in special life-jackets that prevented their heads from going in the water, and with different techniques we tried to make them kick their feet in the water, a big challenge to them. Over the rest of the week, we were involved in more French and gym classes. After doing a reflection on my experience, I have come to realize that I should truly be grateful for being able to do basic things like walking, talking, and swimming. I have also realized that life outside of school for these people must be a challenge everyday. Therefore, I should always have empathy for other people and never let myself, or anyone else bring them down.

My experience was great. In the beginning I was really not sure why I chose it and was regretting choosing it because the people smelled and they all looked different and it was unpleasant to be near them. As the days passed I felt more at ease and started seeing similar faces and they were now seeing young boys which made them happy and so they spoke to us and we had conversations which made me really realize that there is much more to them then us seeing them as nothing and just people who are alcoholics and who smoke every chance they get. During this experience I packed bags, chopped carrots and onions, peeled carrots and potatoes, and made over 500 peanut butter sandwiches. But it was when I looked into their eyes and I saw how grateful they were to have food and water and a place to stay warm that my heart was filled with joy and warmth.

The Montreal Experience proved to be a far more touching week than I ever could have expected. Working at the Open Door Day Center for the homeless, I was exposed to a part of society that I feel many forget about or pretend do not exist. Previous to this week I understood the issues that homeless people had whether it be mental illnesses or addiction. Upon my immersion in this marginalized community though, I discovered that the homeless people are not sorry dropouts but people with hopes and dreams just like the rest of us. I very much enjoyed the experience and heard many moving stories from various individuals that reminded me how fortunate I am and how easily lives can change with one poor decision. I am happy to have gone through this week and have learned much in a very short period of time.

Heading into my first day I was pretty excited to get started just because I had never done anything like this before. I spent the last four days at St. Michael's mission in downtown Montreal. When I walked in for the first time I was definitely shocked by what goes on in there. Everyday St. Michael mission serves breakfast and lunch to about 100 less fortunate people living in Montreal. When I saw the type of food they were getting and the condition that the men were in I was taken aback. I found there to be a huge variety from men who looked well fed with Beats headphones on their head to a woman with no arms and one leg who had just been beaten by her husband the night before and couldn’t see out of her left eye. Throughout the week myself and the 3 other boys with me did a lot of peeling vegetables, and folding clothes clients. We also served food and spoke to some of them. I have to say that the director of St. Michael's mission was one of the nicest men I have ever met and he made my experience that much better. The most moving part of the week was certainly when the woman who had been beaten was spoken to by the director and a social worked and we were asked to be an audience of this intervention. Some of the things she said were very special.

I liked it a lot more than I was expecting to. The first day was a bit of a transition, but soon found what we had to do and what they had planned for us. The people at the Montclair residence were aware that we were there not only to help out and work but we got to experience life as both a caretaker and a resident. They had organized an activity where we actually have to act as both the caretaker and a resident.

I enjoyed many things about this week, most importantly I enjoyed how happy we made them when they got their food. I really enjoyed talking to them and learning their stories about how they ended up on the streets and who they were before. It shocked me at how many people said please and thank you when they got their meals, I never expected them to be so polite. They were so thankful when they got their food or new clothes, it made me feel good knowing they got to eat that day.

I felt like the best times of my week were spending time and talking with the visually-impaired seniors. Everyday I went home with something more, something new that I learnt from that day. I remember talking to man whom survived the Second World War and his experiences and adventures, or learning how to tell how much money you have if you're blind. Or even just leisure conversations with elders about their children and grandchildren. I remember one woman talking to me about her brilliant grandson at Harvard University. I enjoyed talking to them as they gave me life lessons for success as well as how to live life with no regrets. Also I can't forget the fun I had playing bowling and bean bags with everyone, even though they were blind they still got perfect scores!

I believe the most important aspect of grad at grad that I found in this week was love. I loved doing what I was doing and it showed a lot of care to others. Though it was tiring I know the people there enjoyed my presence and they know I put lots of love and care into helping them.