Once Shameika was accepted to the program, “My role as a volunteer was to come into the home, and try to give support,” she explains. The role demands flexibility and emotional intelligence. “If the mother is not well,
I can attend to the child so the mother can rest, and play with and feed the child. I also provide moral support to the mother. If she’s depressed, I will try to find ways to help her, and even pass on the info to my supervisor at VHA so they can look into other resources to take care of her.”
With her prior childcare experience and her dedication to the role, Shameika was a natural—and her exceptional skill didn’t go unnoticed by her clients. “She was amazing to be honest,” says Rubina, one of the parents Shameika supported. A mother of four young children, one of whom has complex medical needs, Rubina was referred to VHA by her social worker at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.
“I was told ‘we have a volunteer available for you’ and I was really not sure what a volunteer could do for me. When someone isn’t paid, they’re not always dedicated to their work. [But] Shameika did a great job. The way she spent time with my child and supported me and my older daughter was amazing, to be honest.”
While Shameika played with Rubina’s two-year-old son, it gave Rubina the freedom to do other things. “When Shameika arrived, my son knew this was his time to play and sit down with her,” says Rubina. “I could do my work and do something for myself… and have peace of mind there’s someone there that my son likes and he’s comfortable with. It was a wonderful experience.”
The consistently positive feedback about her performance made its way to Shameika’s supervisor, prompting a call. “[She] asked me if I would like to work for VHA. I was surprised. I said, “They have jobs?!” and
she said, ‘Yes! You’re so great and wonderful, I would like you to be part of VHA.’ I was excited and said, ‘I am ready!’ ”
Shameika made the transition from volunteer to full- time Child and Family Support Worker in the summer of 2019. She is still surprised at the speed with which she shiGed to a paid role, but she loves the work. As a volunteer, she was able to care for children ages 0-4, support the mother as a listener and help her find resources in the community to support herself and the family. “As an employee I can do a lot more. I give the mom support; I bathe, feed, and play with the child; and depending on the physicalness of the mother, I can help around the home where possible.”
Shameika is grateful to VHA for recognizing her skills.
“Sometimes it’s not only about knowledge, it’s about experience,” she says. “I recommend to others that are interested…to volunteer at VHA. And if they are looking to work in that field, a job at VHA may also be possible if they are willing to continue on that path.”
For Rubina, who was once skeptical about volunteers, her VHA experience has changed her mind. “I feel that VHA is doing an amazing job with the volunteer work. They have great workers. I was really feeling low when Shameika joined us, and she really was an angel to me at that time. I feel like whenever I get a chance, when my kids grow up, I would definitely become a volunteer myself because I know the impact it has on the family.”
To learn more about Shameika’s story, please watch
her video: h†ps://bit.ly/38CSWB7.