NVW 2022 Full Story

2022 Volunteer Stories in Waterloo Region 

The Gap Factory Staff

Cambridge Shelter Corporation – The Bridges

The Bridges, an emergency shelter run by Cambridge Shelter Corporation, takes in people from the cold and gives them a place to stay. This can make a huge difference to someone who is struggling, even for just one night. The employees at GAP factory in Cambridge started out with donations and helping to serve and prepare food for the people staying at The Bridges. 

After some time, they started to truly come to know what this place means to those who use it. They saw how the individuals that come to this place are strong members of the community, regardless of circumstance. They started to feel empathy towards the people staying there, and the living conditions in The Bridges; The staff there already work so hard just to keep the place running. The volunteers from the GAP factory felt a need to help with repairs, especially when it came to the situation of the bathroom. The volunteers sprang into action, working with their company to both raise funds and provide volunteer hours for these repairs. 

The community at the GAP factory in Cambridge are proud of their community outreach programs and volunteers. They have really come together and shown how volunteers are empathetic and back it up with action. “Once they see how much these few hours mean to so many, and how much fun we have volunteering, they are more willing to sign up,” says the team community leader, Michelle Stanley.

^ Back to the Top

Brice Balmer

Muslim Social Services

Muslim Social Services is an organization that focusses on providing and giving information on social services to the Muslim community. With many of the services provided in the current environment being geared to catholic and Judeo-Christian people; they want to make sure that people of the Muslim faith have equal access and fair treatment in society.

Brice has been a volunteer for many years, using his talents to learn about and fight for justice. He saw, through his many different experiences, how people need to be heard, and that most things that divide us shouldn't make us dislike each other. Within his search for justice in the Interfaith Community, he learned about the struggles of the Muslim community in the region. "It's very different for Muslim people to access healing and services through traditional means," he says, "For them, healing is a very spiritual and religiously integrated process. Most of what we provide, both private and public, don't really account for that." Inspired by this gap in service,Brice took up a board position with MSS. He continues to fight and educate others in what it takes to help serve the Muslim community better.

Having empathy for those who are like us is much easier. However, showing empathy for the struggles unfamiliar to us are just as important. While Brice's actions go above and beyond the call, it is possible for everyone to be able to stand up for and support people who are different from us. Brice's history has given him a depth of perspective that many of us lack, but we could learn so much from. "My father used to say, 'you should welcome and accept everyone,' and I took that to heart," Brice says.

^ Back to the Top

Duaa Al Aghar

KW AccessAbility

KW AccessAbility is an organization dedicated to social justice and accessibility for all. They want to make sure that there are no barriers to inclusion for anyone and promote health and well being in physically disabled communities. 

Duaa came to Canada in 2006 from Iraq. Being a newcomer, she wanted to get in touch with the community through volunteering. Her technical and computer skills were very much in need. She eventually learned about KW AccessAbility and the work they did in their community. She felt a real connection to the social justice aspect; providing a sense of inclusion that did not see barriers. Not only did they make an impact on her, but she also made a big impact on them, and was offered the paid position of Project Manager within just 3 months. She says that for volunteering, “There are a lot of motivators; one of them is to give back to the community because my passion is building communities, social justice and social services.”

Being a newcomer can stir up anxiety, social isolation, and disconnection in your new home. It is important to understand that there are struggles everywhere in the world, and a need for help. If you can show empathy for people in a new place, and turn that into action, you will start to have a feeling of belonging and community. “I love helping people and seeing them happy,” Duaa explains, “This is why I strongly recommend volunteering and encourage all the newcomers to volunteer, because the first step to understanding Canadian culture is to be involved in the community and make connections and build your network.”

^ Back to the Top

Sunbeam Volunteer Bloggers

Sunbeam Community and Developmental Services

Finding ways for our generous volunteers to continue sharing their time and talent with us during the pandemic has been challenging. We have been forced to rethink our traditional volunteer roles and create positions where volunteers can connect with us from a distance. Our volunteer spotlight focuses on our “Volunteer Presents” Blog found on our website at  https://sunbeamcommunity.ca/volunteer-presents .

Volunteers showcase their knowledge, talent, skills and abilities through blog submissions for everyone to enjoy on our website. Sunbeam volunteers are incredibly talented in a variety of ways. They share recipes, art, creative writing, crafts, stories about their pets, ideas for places to visit and so much more. Our volunteer bloggers range in age from five years old to senior citizens. We have people sharing things just for fun and students creating blog articles to meet their high school volunteer hour requirement. We are also lucky to have many students from Wilfrid Laurier University submitting articles as part of their community service-learning placement. Students shared articles about everything from successfully growing house plants to painting tutorials, places to visit, craft instructions and much more. New material is added on a regular basis. Let our volunteers help you beat boredom by visiting our “Volunteer Presents” blog on the Sunbeam website today.

^ Back to the Top

Ed Zurawski


Ed has been an outstanding volunteer with THEMUSEUM, an experiential museum –a premier cultural destination dedicated to presenting fresh, inspired content from around the globe in unique and immersive ways designed to showcase art & technology at play. Ed joined us as a volunteer for our exhibit Unzipped: Rolling Stones. He came to the organization as a big Rolling Stones fan and enjoys sharing his knowledge about the band with museum visitors. Visitors constantly reach out to let us know about the wonderful experience they've had at the museum thanks to Ed. He perfectly manages the role of being informative while giving guests space to explore.

Ed definitely brings the heart to volunteering, we could not be more thankful for his kindness.

^ Back to the Top

Bets McLachlan

Region of Waterloo

I have been volunteering at the Boardwalk Vaccine Clinic since April of 2021.  After being accepted as a volunteer, I looked forward to being part of this unknown adventure to fight Covid-19. This experience has proven to be very rewarding for me.  I meet wonderful people...managers, supervisors, vaccinators, so many other volunteers... The number of great people at this clinic is endless.

Being able to volunteer at the clinic helped me mentally as I was able to venture out of my home (you can do only so much cleaning!) and help the community fight to get out of the pandemic.  I have loved the interaction with the people of Waterloo Region who came to the Clinic.  Watching the older people smile and be so happy when receiving that first shot made it more rewarding.  As the age level dropped and more and more people came for their shot, I knew that everyone was there to do their own fighting against Covid-19.

There were nervous people, happy people, people who were not sure but it was great to know that they all wanted the same thing...let's get it done to get out of this pandemicI do know that I have gained friendships with people, I have gained the knowledge that when we work together better things can happen and that Waterloo Region is one of the best areas to live in.  We are a great community!

^ Back to the Top

Nel Santos

Kind Minds Family Wellness

Kind Minds Family Wellness is an organization that is focussed on making sure that Black and other marginalized communities of Waterloo Region are give the best possible access to the services that they need. With their leadership of Black professionals who have been working towards providing this indispensable service to this community, they have been raising up these communities for over 15 years. Volunteer Waterloo Region has been instrumental in helping improve their reach within these communities.

Nel Jayson Santos has been a volunteer with the organization for over a year now as a Project and Research Coordinator. He feels the passion and commitment that this organization puts into their community, and connects with it on a personal level. He remembers one project where he worked with the LGBTQ+ community in improving the safety for sexually active gay men. This really resonated with him, being a member of the community and understanding that there needs to be guidance and information out there to keep them safe. The project (known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP) helped keep countless members of the gay community safe.

Nel really appreciates the opportunities that volunteering gives him, allowing him to feel more grounded and productive. He feels empathy for the communities he serves and is a part of. He believes that recognizing that everyone has a story will teach people a valuable lesson; what we learn can help guide people towards taking action in causes that are close to them. “I was inspired by [former President Bill Clinton's] challenge to his readers that, no matter where you are from or whatever your background is, anyone can help and volunteer” Nel Says.

^ Back to the Top

Firouzeh (Roza)

House of Friendship

As a pharmacist, I work closely with individuals recovering from addictions. Conventional wisdom often emphasizes the pipeline from drug addiction to homelessness, but in my experience the reverse is more typical. I wanted to help address the root cause in some way, so I began volunteering with the House of Friendship, a non-profit providing food and shelter in my community.

 During my time there, I've been involved in preparing, packaging and delivering meals for a local men's shelter. Not only has this experience been an opportunity to give back to the community that has supported my family and I for over twenty years, it has also helped me better understand and serve the patients I care for every day.

^ Back to the Top

Randy Martin

Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region’s Cambridge ReStore

When Randy Martin, a 5-year volunteer at Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region’s Cambridge ReStore, noticed that no kitchens were arriving in the store to sell, and that the reason was because we had no staff to coordinate the program, he acted. Randy voluntarily ran the Salvage program for over 2 months, keeping our volunteers engaged while satisfying a community need. The salvage program, which consists of removing kitchens for free and reselling them at our ReStores to raise money for local families in need of affordable housing, consists almost completely of volunteers. Randy coordinated these volunteers, met with homeowners, and oh so much more. And he did this while continuing to volunteer at the Cambridge ReStore!

We are not surprised by Randy’s graciousness and generosity. It runs in the family. Randy introduced his father Keith to volunteering at Habitat ReStore. The intergenerational duo spend time weekly assembling and repairing items. The pair find that volunteering together creates time to bond, and for Randy it is an opportunity to learn new skills from his father. 

^ Back to the Top

Payton Bayley

Volunteer Waterloo Region

Payton has been volunteering as a mentor with Volunteer Waterloo Region, YOUTH Engagement programming since 2021. Payton participated in the ‘Deep Dive Series’, which was focussed on talking  about the environment and how to get youth connected to the topic in their community. Payton helped the youth leader with creating challenges for other youth to complete in the community, and he also facilitated conversations between youth.

Payton has still been mentoring VWR youth, in our current ‘Youth Navigator Program’. As a public health employee, he enjoys talking about the challenges of the times and was happy to speak with other youth about addressing issues related to Health, Equity and Belonging. Payton is also very passionate about the environment and gardening - he is holding something he grew. Despite his busy work schedule…. as he is a grown up now….Payton will be a volunteer with us somehow as we don’t want to lose him!

Payton, VWR thanks you for everything you’ve done over the past years. We are very grateful for having you as a youth leader and mentor. We wish you all the best in your future, and we look forward to seeing you grow even more in our community.

^ Back to the Top

Cameron Tai

Volunteer Waterloo Region

Cameron came to Volunteer Waterloo Region as a final term placement student from the  PR Program at Conestoga College. Cameron was an incredible addition to our team especially at our busiest time of the year! Cameron came in with such a passion for the work and capabilities that we enjoyed learning more about each day. This placement has since turned into a volunteer role here and he continues to help us  with lots of our publicity and preparations for things like our racial equity video, youth engagement programming, social media, website and other communications around National Volunteer Week INCLUDING this very story section!

Cameron is an example of how volunteerism and personal development can perhaps target a career path and potential employment in the nonprofit sector.  Watch for more about Cameron soon!

Thank you Cameron for all your kindness and support. 

^ Back to the Top

Volunteer Waterloo Region
1454 King Street East, Unit 3
Kitchener ON N2G 2N7

Phone: 519 742 8610

For in person appointments, Click Here

About Us Volunteer Organizations
Contact Us Youth SUBSCRIBE
Support Us


Twitter Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Donate