Weaving us Together: Celebrating the Volunteers of VHA Home HealthCare
Each year, National Volunteer Week recognizes the dedication and generosity of the over 24 million volunteers across Canada who offer their time, talent and energy to make a positive difference. For the 2023 Recognition Week (April 16-22), the theme Volunteering Weaves Us Together, reveals the importance of volunteering to the strength and vibrancy of our communities.
At VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) the individual and collective actions of volunteers strengthen the fabric of our organization. The important contributions of volunteers can take place in many different ways, which may include administrative support in community clinics, contributing their expertise as a member of our volunteer Board, delivering essential items to vulnerable clients, providing emotional and coaching support to those struggling with hoarding, relieving family caregivers or supporting new moms.
“Our volunteers develop vital partnerships with our clients and staff that enhance the work that we do and create opportunities for more independence,” said Dawn Ashford, Supervisor of Volunteer Services at VHA.
“In 2022 we had 92 active volunteers who provided 4,000 hours of service. They are truly outstanding examples of empathy, compassion, skill and commitment and make a difference in the lives of our clients and families every day,” Dawn added.
As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, here’s a glimpse into the kindness of our volunteers and how their roles are impacting the VHA community.
Supporting Children and Families in Crisis
Volunteers in the Child and Family Support program offer relief for new parents who are experiencing stress, isolation, and mental health challenges, such as postpartum depression.
After moving to Canada five years ago, Child and Family Support volunteer Kuralay Duskayeva initially looked to volunteering as a way to feel more connected to the community. “Through my volunteer work with VHA, I provide practical, task-related help but also emotional support and a listening ear, which I think is the most important part,” she said.
“My first client was an exhausted and overwhelmed single mother of infant twins. Just by watching her babies—playing, reading a book or feeding them a meal—she could sleep, get things done or enjoy a moment to relax,” Kuralay added.
Most recently, Kuralay has been supporting a mother who has an 11-month-old with congenital cataracts, or a rare birth defect of the eye. “She is struggling to meet her son’s needs and also has postpartum depression. I am there to play with her son, always making sure that he keeps his eyepatch on, so she can take a shower. I also just check in and see how mom is doing,” Kuralay said.
“These may seem like minor acts, but I see the difference these moments make and it’s so inspiring. Volunteering has made me appreciate the importance of community and has motivated me to keep finding other ways to give back,” she said.
Roxana Condo, Registered Social Worker and Program Assistant with Volunteer Services at VHA also routinely experiences the impact of these programs.
“Our volunteers provide parents with a chance to attend to their own needs, complete tasks or have a moment of relief knowing that their children are safe and engaged,” said Roxana.
“They help create a space where families can talk about the challenges they are facing and connect parents to community resources and supports that will encourage their confidence and independence,” Roxanna said. “We are so fortunate to have a dedicated team of volunteers, like Kuralay, who play a critical role in this programming.”
Addressing Hoarding with Empathy
Volunteers in the Hoarding Support program help clients living with hoarding tendencies to create safe and functional spaces and regain control of their homes and lives.
York Psychology student, Olivia Calandra, first inquired about volunteering at VHA to gain relevant experience in her field and was immediately drawn to this program.
“This work has had a huge impact on me—more than I expected, actually. I’ve developed really strong connections with my clients and it’s been so fulfilling to make progress together as a team,” Olivia said.
One of Olivia’s clients was unable to cook for herself because of the clutter on and surrounding her stove. After multiple sessions, they were able to clear out the kitchen together and this client has been cooking again for the first time in years.
“She is now meal planning, cooking different meals every day and is so excited to share all of the new recipes she’s trying. It’s truly been life changing for her and amazing for me to see her regain her independence,” she added.
For Olivia’s client the value of this program is really about the connection, support and accountability. “I was just so overwhelmed and couldn’t figure out how to start or move on. I had gotten into a rut and turned a blind eye to the mess I lived in,” her client said.
“I was only Olivia’s second client but she listened to my needs and found the best way to help me comfortably clear my space. This strategy may not work for the next person but it was right for me and I really appreciate her.”
As a supervisor with Early Intervention Hoarding Services at VHA, Norbu Tsering knows just how much this support can improve clients’ overall health, well-being and quality of life.
“This program is developed from a harm-reduction approach and is for individuals living in hoarding environments who want to make changes. Volunteers provide early intervention before the situation escalates to an urgent safety issue, or creates other hazards such as housing security and public health concerns,” Norbu said.
“In fact, my journey with VHA actually began as a volunteer with the Hoarding Support Program. There are many other staff and service providers at VHA who also started as volunteers and I think that shows just how much the organization values the experiences and expertise of our volunteers,” he added.
If you’re looking for a hands-on volunteer opportunity and want to make a positive difference in people’s lives this National Volunteer Week, learn more about how to get involved in our volunteer programming at VHA by visiting vha.ca/volunteer.