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How to give back during the pandemic

by Dalia Nardolillo April 30, 2021
How to give back during the pandemic

Volunteering opportunities in our city

“I have been in Girl Guides since I was five years old,” said Kaitlynn Rodney, a Journalism student at Concordia University. “So I had people who volunteered to help me until I was about 18. Then I became a leader, so now I teach and help out with the little girls.”

While Montreal enters the third wave of the pandemic, people are finding ways to dedicate their time, online or in-person, to their community. In a time that we feel more alone and isolated than ever before, volunteering is a great way to stay connected.

According to an article published by the Bayshore Foundation for Empowered Living, “It’s often said that volunteers are the backbone of a community. What happens when a public health crisis forces them to stay at home? The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the landscape of volunteering, both in terms of volunteer opportunities and volunteer availability, and the disruption is likely to continue for months to come.”

Rodney spends several hours a week volunteering as a Girl Guides leader. But ever since the pandemic hit, all the meetings have been moved online. 

“It has been kinda nice. I work with seven and eight-year-olds and it’s been a breath of fresh air because they don’t understand what the pandemic is,” said Rodney.

Even though the meetings are online, the young girls are still keen on participating and getting the full experience. “It’s like they are right there in the room with you. It feels pretty good because they leave the room with excitement,” said Rodney.

Every week, a lot of planning goes into each virtual volunteering session, so it’s as enjoyable as possible for the girls. “It depends on the week, we meet for about an hour and a half. We spend about an hour and a half delivering activities and then about another hour planning the activities. So it’s probably around four to five hours a week that I dedicate to volunteering,” said Rodney.

For those interested in volunteering with the Girl Guides of Canada, you can find more information here. After filling out the application form, the prospective volunteer will be paired with a unit for an interview, and will undergo a background check. 

For people who are interested in volunteering in-person, The Open Door Mtl, which is a homeless shelter located near Place-des-Arts metro station, is always looking for new volunteers to join the team.

Ever since the pandemic began in April 2020, Max Seguéla has been a frequent volunteer at this shelter. He shared his feelings about volunteering during these past couple months.

“I sometimes feel pretty drained after one of the shifts here, physically and emotionally because we are dealing with homeless people. However because I work with people, it doesn’t feel as isolating and gives me a sense of purpose,” said Seguéla.

To learn more about joining The Open Door’s volunteering team, email the volunteering coordinator, Vanessa Gagnon, who will guide you through the application process.

There’s no wrong answer in choosing between volunteering online or in-person; both are extremely fulfilling. A medical study published in June 2020 found that people who volunteer just two hours a week can significantly improve their physical and mental health.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Eric Kim, a research scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told CNN,  “Volunteering might help enrich our own lives by strengthening our bonds to others, helping us feel a sense of purpose and optimism, and protecting us from feelings of loneliness, depressive symptoms, and hopelessness.”

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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