By Keith West, Mentor, Athletes Mentoring Program
I’ve just started my fourth year as a mentor with the Athletes Mentoring Program (AMP). I study Communications full time at the University of Calgary. In addition, I am a varsity athlete competing with the Dinos men’s volleyball team. During my summers, I’ve trained with the Canadian Junior National volleyball team. Despite having a busy student-athlete schedule, I felt it was important to contribute and be a positive role model in my community by volunteering with AMP. Although each year with AMP has been special, the past year came with a unique set of challenges.
The most difficult of hardships was my struggle with mental health. Late in 2015, I began to develop anxiety issues that would at times render me paralyzed; some days getting out of bed was my biggest accomplishment. Not all days were this burdensome. I was able to complete my schooling and athletics, but I did not feel at peace.
Amidst this ongoing struggle, AMP became a source of relief for me. AMP was a place for me to love others in my community. Watching my mentees learn new things, be filled with joy and return love to their peers and mentors was so rewarding. I knew that I was making a difference and that filled a void in me.
By definition, volunteering is: to freely offer to do something or to work for an organization without being paid. By this definition, in the past three years with AMP I haven’t volunteered a single hour of my time – AMP paid me. Perhaps not with money, but in a profound sense where I got to truly experience joy and relief from an illness I could not combat on my own.
In my faith, we believe that if you give, you will be given. Working with AMP has given me a much deeper understanding of this verse; I found relief when I gave to others also in need. Often when we need help, we feel that we should be on the receiving end of things. Although it may seem counterintuitive, sometimes the best thing to do in these times is to give.
Since 1999, Catholic Family Service has offered the Athletes Mentoring Program which combines sports with mentorship as a unique way to engage young people and promote high school completion. Athletes Mentoring is not designed to develop athletic skills, but rather uses a safe group setting of team practices as a place where mentoring can occur. For two hours each week, youth age 10 – 14, along with student athletes from Calgary’s universities and colleges get together to talk, cultivate friendships, learn new skills and have fun. For more information about AMP, please contact Daniel Prasad at 403.205.8524, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.