She is only 18 but Melody Watkins is an old hand at giving back to her community.
Since she was little, she has contributed in some way to the South Cariboo. She remembers being seven or eight and her family helping an elderly woman who lived near Lac La Hache. They would visit with her, take her to appointments, and help with grocery shopping.
“I remember thinking, ‘wow this isn’t something people normally talk about,’” she said. “There’s a satisfaction of knowing you are able to give what you have in that exact moment. Even if it is as little as giving 10 minutes of your time to help a neighbour unpack groceries and knowing you are able to make an impact.”
Watkins has had good role models. Her mom was involved in the church while her dad is a volunteer firefighter. As she got older, her desire to give back also flourished. She had a good group of friends and they would volunteer together.
She was involved in almost every club at school, including student government, Justice Club, and Amnesty International. Her hockey team volunteered to work the concession stands at local games. Watkins was also the photographer and videographer at the Lake of the Trees Bible camp for five years.
“I did my best to try any challenge because, to me, I feel like volunteering is a pretty important part of who we are and how we give back to the community.”
To some, volunteering is a big scary thing, she said. But really, it can be a lot of fun. Plus, volunteering builds character, she said, instilling the importance of putting others’ needs first and humbling yourself.
“I think these are really good values to have, especially in a society where it’s all about me and all about ‘your’ life.”
She recognizes people are busy and it can be difficult to find the time to volunteer. But she said just an hour spent at the food bank or helping an organization is “absolutely worth it.”
As a member of the student Amnesty Club at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary, Watkins said they were limited in what they could do beyond raising awareness. But every little bit helps.
“Sometimes, that’s all you can do. Maybe it will stick in the back of someone’s head. Sometimes it just takes one person to make a difference.”
Watkins, who graduated in 2022, was recognized for her efforts this year as the first recipient of the South Cariboo Community Enhancement Foundation’s bursary for volunteerism (See related story A5).
The selection criteria for the award is to support a student who has demonstrated a commitment to enhancing the community through volunteerism or career direction.
While she is not sure why she was selected, she said she is extremely grateful. Since leaving school Watkins has yet to find a new organization where she can give back.
“I gotta find something else because there’s almost like a hole that’s missing when you don’t have it there anymore.”