NVW 2024 Full Story

2024 Volunteer Stories in Waterloo Region 
National Volunteer Week 

Joy- Women of Dignity International

“It’s not about what you gain out there; It’s about what you can give out to remove or eliminate a lot of pain out there”.

Joy has been volunteering with Women of Dignity International as an event planner and coordinator for 9 months. She brings with her experience in the hospitality industry in Nigeria, and a passion for helping the community. She believes that volunteering “is a part of me. Doing voluntary job is a part of me… Just some hours to volunteer and to go to secondary schools to talk to the youth out there. Because of the friend/peer influence out there. I do that on a number of basis in my country before coming to Canada”

Of the moments that have mattered to her, one sticks out in specific. She considers herself a very kind and conscientious person, and is always looking out for others, checking on their well-being at events. While she really doesn’t think too much of it, she remembers being stopped one time by a person who said “Thank you. You made my day…because you asking me this means that you have me in mind.” This is a reminder how even the smallest gestures can make every moment matter.


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Omosede- Women of Dignity International

“I think that I want people to be more concerned about feedback, because I think we learn to progress and to improve…and because we should always learn to improve ourselves”.

Omosede has been volunteering with Women of Dignity as a FoodBank Coordinator and event planner for approximately 9 months.

Through Volunteering, Omosede feels she is making an impact in her community. She says: “...the smile you put on peoples face, the satisfaction, the feedback. It gives me so much satisfaction to see that the little time or effort that I’m putting in, and seeing the faces of the people that have been benefited, and seeing them going back home - they are excited, they have hope, they know that things are going to get better.”

One meaningful moment in her volunteer role is seeing how a little bit of time can make a huge difference in the lives of those around her. She also highlights the joy and excitement she feels every time one of her clients register for a program or get the support they need. She is consistently reassured by the feedback and responses from the clients she serves at Women of Dignity International. For her, it’s the small impacts that are made, the families that are touched, and the testimonies that are possible because of the small efforts people put into it. Those volunteer experiences and memories will be with her wherever she goes.

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Beilul- COMPASS Refugee Centre

“At this time I don’t really have the money to give to the people, but I have, like, my time to help them”

Beilul has been volunteering for COMPASS Refugee Centre for over 9 months. He uses his first language, Tigrinya, to support the organization with reception services, interpretation and translation programs.

Volunteering has given Beilul a sense of satisfaction, as he is able to give back to the organization and the community that welcomed him and supported since his arrival in Canada. He shares: “ When I came to Canada, I was a refugee at first, and I was helped by the people of COMPASS. They were helping me through my refugee claim process, and to transition smoothly into the Canadian community”. Beilul feels volunteering with COMPASS Refugee Centre gives him the opportunity to help people like him that feel scared or intimidated because of the refugee claim process. This is why volunteering is very satisfying to Beilul as it allows him to be a part of the support system, and to see other refugees being helped and welcomed by his organization.

Something Beilul wants to share with other volunteers is that volunteering is a good way for people to get out of their comfort zone, to connect with others, and to “get to know the different systems”. He also wants to share the value of volunteering to other newcomers as a way of integrating to the community and to giving back.

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Lisa- Canadian Wildlife Federation

“Just get out there! Try it!” Find an experience. You would be amazed how good it makes you feel, and also how it makes people in your community feel”.

Lisa is a volunteer with Wild Outside, which is a sub-committee of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. She has been volunteering for over 2 years, and she is very passionate about nature conservation, and empowering youth by sharing her passions and interests.

As a Wild Outside volunteer, she gets an opportunity to support youth ages 15-18 get their volunteer hours by exploring and participating in nature conservation projects. Some of these projects include cleaning parks, bridging activities or just getting outside. She mentions that “ It’s not always just about cleaning up the community and clean-up days, but it gets kids/youth out exploring new things, exploring the outdoors and maybe learning something new about nature and conservation”. Lisa feels all her volunteer roles are ‘ moments that matter’ as she gets the chance to help and learn from youth and other people in the community. She also feels volunteering makes her feel positive and happy.

Lisa is a great example of how volunteering can help you make a difference in those around you. She is sharing her passion for nature conservation and empowering others to learn and get involved in the community. She is also grateful for the people she gets to work with, and for the team at Wild Outside. She says “they have been absolutely amazing, and I’m just really really grateful that I have had the opportunity, and continue to have the opportunity to work with them”

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Chris- Elmira District Community Living

“So in the long run, volunteering is good for everybody , those who receive as well as those who give”

Chris has been volunteering with Elmira District Community Living since 2012. Chris volunteers at Avenues by providing meaningful and interactive craft experiences for the clients she is supporting.

Chris enjoys that every time she volunteers that it is a new and different experience. There are so many moments that are impactful, and there are so many things that make her feel rewarded in doing something in her community.

“The one thing that volunteering does for you, it keeps you men mentally stimulated and adds more zest to your life, as well as providing you with a sense of purpose and it doesn't matter what age, you know, it can be from teenager up to 80s. It's good for your mind and body. Human beings actually are hardwired to give to others. The more we give of ourselves, the happier we feel.”




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Nick - Elmira District Community Living (EDCL)

“ I just want to shout out EDCL as an organization because they were there from moment one to day one and they always had my back and the people that they support”.

Nick has been a supportive friend volunteer for about 5 months with Elmira District Community Living. He finds that volunteering is an extension of who he is, and who he wants to be. He uses humour to make others (and himself) smile and laugh.

His experience at EDCL has been a journey of growth for him. He always felt a little bit shy around others, and tended to read books more than socialize. This experience, however, let him be more of himself. He has been able to lean into his more athletic side, and really become a friend that he wants to be to others, and the kind of person that her wants to see more of in the world.

Nick likes to think of EDCL like a home; “That's exactly what this place is. It's a branch of you,” he says. “My advice is find something that you truly Want to be doing because then it's effortless and like I said, it's joyful and it's a blessing.”


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Ethan - Changemaker Labs

“ Just don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to try something new. Don't be afraid to reach out”.

Ethan volunteered as a part of a Climate Design Sprint with Changemaker Labs in 2023. It was a big difference to some of the previous volunteering he has done, but it was nonetheless rewarding.

Ethan had volunteered with a Neighbourhood Association back in Hamilton Where he got to work with kids. This volunteering experience was different though. He felt like he was able to improve upon his communication skills, teamwork and being able to interact in a professional setting.

“There was free food every single time I came. No complaints.” Ethan says jokingly. “But just really connecting with the community.” The experience was for him a moment that will continue to matter in his life and future prospects in university.

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Amrita - Elmira District Community Living (EDCL)

“When I really think about my volunteering role here with Elmira District Community Living, I think about it as both someone who’s new to Elmira, as well as someone who’s new to Canada as an immigrant. And I find that it’s been a rewarding discovery of purpose and connection.”

When Amrita reached out to the EDCL, she wanted to learn more about the community and to add to herself. Her role as a reader helped her to learn more about the community, its needs and those who are perhaps more vulnerable. As she mentioned, “... how can I use my skills, my talents, everything that I know and I’ve brought to Canada, and to Elmira; how can I use those skills to just make a difference in someone’s life”.

Amrita is from Trinidad and Tobego, and she feels volunteering allows her to share her talents and skills with others, but it also provides her with an opportunity to share about her culture with the person she is reading to. Amrita uses her voice and lived experiences to empower others to get involved and make a difference. She mentions: “ I just want to make a difference, and learn more about intellectual disabilities as well along the way because in my home country there is no infrastructure so to speak. It is inadequate so by volunteering I get to learn more about intellectual disabilities, and just find a way to be a part of that conversation”. She also uses her story to be a role model for her children and the community, as she mentioned during this interview, “This is not just a place we migrated to. This is home now. You know they really have to take care of their community”.

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“When you see that kids that you had in Guides are now doctors, lawyers… doing well in their lives that kind of makes you feel good that you’ve done something that perhaps helped just a little bit”.

Carman has been a volunteer with HopeSpring for over 10 years. In her role, she supports clients undergoing chemo by providing them with cookies and treats, and being there if they need someone to talk to. She also feels her volunteering role allowed her to “get to know staff better who are very caring, and I think very much appreciated by the patients”.

Carman feels she is filled with many memories of ‘moments that matter’. One of those moments she refers to include: “ …when you see the look on the face of the person who just had their last chemo, and ringing the bell; you know when everybody is clapping that's kind of neat too”. She then shares her advice to other volunteers by reminding them to be honest to themselves when they chose a volunteer role, as “It's not something you can force yourself to do”.

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Sussane- HopeSpring

“ So find what you like, find what you are good at or decide you want to try something new, and maybe that's where your calling is”.

Sussane is a therapeutic touch volunteer for HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre. She describes it as “an energy healing modality, in which the healing partner helps the other healing partner have their energy moved to increase their wholeness, and restore order, harmony and balance. Although it is not meant to cure anything, she mentions that it can help “clear that confusion that is happening around chemotherapy. It can help reduce anxiety, and can help reduce the need for more serious medication even if that’s just fractionaly.

Sussane feels her volunteering role gives her an opportunity to give to her community, family, her church, and even strangers since therapeutic touch can be done in the distance. She invites the community to celebrate Therapeutic Touch Awareness week in Ontario from May 7-12, and she advises other volunteers to follow their heart and what they are passionate about. “find something that you really want to do”. In her case, she mentions that “The cancer journey is not my journey , but I can walk alongside someone and help support them on their journey”.

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Ellen- Brain Injury Association of Waterloo Wellington

“There is another layer of purpose”

Ellen has been volunteering with the Brain Injury Association of Waterloo Wellington since the moment the organization was created. She is also a brain injury survivor, and she loves to volunteer at her organization.

She is a previous teacher who she shares about her experiences with loss, and re-adjusting to a new life since her brain injury. However, volunteering has allowed her to gain a new purpose by helping others around her, and it has also allowed her to rediscover herself and learn new things.

"I thought, there is another layer of purpose for people like us where we maybe lost a lot. But when we do this, we spread our wings in new areas– we find that there are people who come along and they see something that we may not have seen, and so that encourages us. That builds our confidence, and our way of thinking on our new life, possibly that there are other avenues that we could still travel… the world hasn’t shut down entirely for us right"?

She also shares some great advice to volunteers because it has allowed her to enrich her life, meet new people, network, and find a purpose.

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Ashley- Brain Injury Association of Waterloo Wellington

“Volunteering with a community organization like that not only helps others, it leaves me feeling encouraged and knowing that I am making a difference”.

Ashley volunteers for the Brain Injury Association of Waterloo Wellington as a Board Member. She also actively participates in the events run by her organization.

Ashley shared that something she loves about her organization is just the opportunity it provides her to give back and make a difference. As a brain injury survivor, she understands the importance of having a sense of support and a sense of community around her. She mentions: “So knowing that I am a part of this organization, I know that I am making a difference in other people’s lives, and helping to provide that support for them and so that's one of the things I love. And just also being a part of education, advocacy and prevention”.

Through her volunteer role, she supports and advocates for programs like ‘Lids on Kids’, which help provide kids with helmets that they wouldn't be able to have otherwise. She then emphasizes the importance and value of the Brain Injury Association of Waterloo Wellington. “ is so much more than an organization; it's a community. And it's a group of people coming together to advocate for their needs, educate about safety and brain injury prevention, connect with others, and empower each other to be the best version that we could be of ourselves. Volunteering with a community organization like that not only helps others, it leaves me feeling encouraged and knowing that I am making a difference”.

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Brenda- Brain Injury Association of Waterloo Wellington

“I feel very rewarded from doing the volunteering. I feel like its making a difference, whatever its we are doing, and I enjoy it!”

Brenda volunteers at the Waterloo Wellington Brain Injury Association, and she is also a caregiver to someone that has brain injury.

She was introduced to the organization by her daughter. She says: “well my daughter was taking part of some of the crafts and events, and I was driving her to them, so I figured, I might as well been helping out while I am here, and I haven't looked back!”

In her volunteer role she volunteers with her daughter by helping children and families to learn about the brain, and the importance of wearing helmets to prevent brain injuries. She also shares about her volunteering journey, and all the benefits she encountered by getting involved in the community. In her words, “Things have come out of volunteering that I wasn't expecting. I met friends, and there are other activities and event that are a part of the Brain Injury Association that are fun, and i would really encourage people to try it”.

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Donna- Brain Injury Association of Waterloo Wellington

“We try to do anything from empowerment to educating, and support all of those, and our staff, our team of staff is just amazing, and again, we wouldn’t be able to do all that we do without our volunteers”.

Donna started volunteering 7 years ago at the Brain Injury Association of Waterloo Wellington. She has been employed for 6 years as a Volunteer Manager, and she is also a brain injury survivor.

Donna shares about how much she loves and appreciates her organization since the moment she joined. “So I went to the support group… and I had no idea that it was there, and it was a very emotional start, but they said ‘hey we are doing cards on friday, you want come and join us?’ And I am like, yea. Like i had a very crafty nature, but since the brain injury I wasn’t able to do any of that, so getting back into just doing arts was really good for me, … and just volunteered for everything they had available.”

She finds joy in supporting and empowering others around her to try something new or accomplish a goal. One particular moment she remembers as a volunteer is when she participated in one event by helping make cards even though she did not have a crafty nature.

Donna finalizes by inviting volunteers to join her organization since they have numerous opportunities for everyone to get involved. She says to people who are looking to start their volunteering journey “ it doesn't have to be a great expectation, sometimes just those little simple things, is like a million dollars and so priceless to the brain injury survivors”.

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Daena- Brain Injury Association of Waterloo Wellington (BIAWW)

“Volunteering made me feel like I was getting a bit of my life back”.

Daena volunteers for Brain Injury Association of Waterloo Wellington in many areas such as craft sales, the ‘Lids on Kids” program, office administration, art projects, or in her words, “ I kind do whatever is needed”.

She shares about her experience with being a brain injury survivor, and how participating in the support groups offered by BIAWW, gave her a sense of purpose, which led her to volunteering in the community and getting involved. Some of the benefits she shares about her volunteering role include boosting her self-esteem, getting off her shelf, advocating for others, and making a difference by helping others believe in themselves.

Daena advices volunteers to get involved even if you do not have a lot of time to spare.” If you got a cause that you really believe in, being able to give some of your time to that organization just…it just fills your life. So with the amount of time, you know, the small amount of my time that I give to the Brian Injury Association. It really feels like I am making a difference that I am helping out… its that 2 way street… you are getting something out of it, and the people you work with are also getting something out of it”. She also invites everyone to join her organization even if they do not have a brain injury. Her organization raises community awareness about the ways to prevent brain injuries, and they also raise funds through their stores and card sales to give a little bit of income to people with brain injuries.

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Thomas- Family and Children Services of the Waterloo Region (FACS)

“I wish more people would volunteer… it pays back personally, and I think… that eventually the more people do it, I think our communities will be better off”

Thomas volunteers with Family and Children’s Services as a ‘youth male mentor’ providing support to a group of 3 brothers for over three years.

He got involved with the organization because he loves getting involved, but on his own words, he wanted to volunteer because “ children, and think youth is super important for our communities, so it just seemed like a good fit”.

Thomas’s mentoring role has allowed him to connect and support his mentees, but also learn from the group of brothers he is supporting. He says: “here are very fun kids, We are just, at this point, good friends. Sure, I am the older one. this was supposed to be like a mentoring, but they teach me a lot as well with just their curiosity, their excitement towards life, I think that is something that as adults sometimes we forget, and just finding joy in the little things”.

Thomas also feels his volunteer role has provided him with an opportunity to grow since he is able to help the youth navigate their emotions, and find healthier ways to respond to everyday things. Thomas finalizes this interview by thanking the staff from FACS. He shares “They do constant check-ins. I never felt on an island there or uncared for. They are really good with guidance, training all that… they are really good” .

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Wesley - Family & Children's Services Waterloo Region

“It was another way of helping out in the community. To help other people who were not as fortunate as I was”

Wesley became a volunteer driving with Family and Children’s Services Waterloo more than six years ago, at the suggestion of a family member who was a volunteer driver at a Family and Children’s Services in a nearby community. His mobility was limited as a result of an illness a number of years ago. Volunteer driving was “another way of helping out in the community. Helping other people who were not as fortunate…”.

Wesley gets satisfaction from helping people. “I just love doing this,” he shared. Helping children and youth, they are all different, each with their own story. He is mindful not to ask personal questions yet feels he is trusted. He tries to be empathetic, a good listener and make a connection with each one. He kids around with the youth he drives, especially with the teenagers. Wesley stated “You need to praise them, you need to lift them up, say positive things about them. I try to do that as much as I can’.

Wesley feels the dispatchers at Family and Children’s Services Waterloo are the nicest people. They are so kind and they’ve given him an opportunity to help others. He feels “Just being able to help and I love being able to drive and I enjoy it. In today's world, driving is a bit of a challenge sometimes. I love driving these kids and whenever possible I like to help out”.

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

Phone: 519 742 8610

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