Volunteer Success Stories
We asked a handful of our Ottawa volunteers to share their stories with us so you can get a sense of what the experience has meant to them.
John Duffy – “The Joy of a Job Well Done: Volunteering After Retirement”
Naim Louati – “From 13 year old Volunteer… to President”
Bill Robinson – “Passing Knowledge: Learning and Teaching through Volunteering”
Does retirement mean you can longer be a productive member of the community? The question weighed on John Duffy’s mind. But John discovered that retirement was not the end of his road. Volunteering with Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre (PQCHC) opened new options for John that he’d never considered.
PQCHC is an organization that offers a helping hand to people in the Ottawa community, especially newcomers to Canada and low-income families. John started volunteering with PQCHC to continue using his skills after retirement.
“I have been volunteering for six years now since my retirement,” said John. “The main reason is to be able to give back to my society. Also, I feel like I have a duty and responsibility for myself.”
As a volunteer, John has found himself in constant demand. “I do a lot of things. I am not pegged down to one particular thing. For the first three years I was working as a friendly driver; driving people to medical appointments, helping people pick up groceries and stopping in at ODSP. I was also helping the visually impaired shop. Some of the jobs that I do now include photocopying, laminating, phone education with clients, putting manuals together, preparing food vouchers, Christmas exchange, school backpack program, filing, etc. For the last two years I’ve been working at the income tax clinic.”
Like many volunteers, John has discovered the career skills he has learned over a lifetime are put to good use. “A lot of my skills are used in areas such as people relations, prioritizing, data input and working within time constraints.” John believes these diverse challenges have kept him sharp. “It’s the uncertainty of what I will be asked to do next, the learning and understanding of the specifics of each duty.”
John believes that volunteering as a senior has been a very positive experience. “As a senior, I enjoy volunteering and I feel good about it. I think I am very helpful to many people at Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre.” And it’s also brought him happiness. “I enjoy the joy of doing a job well. Also, I love the gratitude people show after helping them.”
Although volunteering is about giving back to the community, it can also be quite the receiving experience, too. John is living testimony to this. “I have gained a lot in terms of training and workshops. I have facilitated a group about my volunteer role and experiences. I have attended workshops on income tax returns and the Excel program on computer.”
John Duffy discovered that retirement was not the end for him. Instead, it was a whole new beginning – through volunteering.
Some of Pinecrest-Queensway’s most valuable volunteers have also been among its youngest. Naim Louati started volunteering in Ottawa’s West End when he was just 13 years old, and he’s been doing it ever since. He even created an award-winning program to get youth more involved in their communities. For Naim, it was all a very natural progression.
In the year 2000, the coordinator of Pinecrest Terrace Community House gave Naim a first-hand encounter with the problems in his community. From that moment on, he knew he wanted to volunteer.
“I have been volunteering for the community house since I was 13-years-old,” said Naim. “I started off by sitting on the tenant association as a youth representative. When I was growing up in the Pinecrest community, I had no idea about volunteering.” But Naim’s experience with the Pinecrest Community House coordinator sparked an interest in volunteering that continues to this day.
Naim has challenging, but rewarding duties as a volunteer. “Currently I am the president of the tenant association of Pinecrest Terrace and I also sit on the board of Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre.” Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre (PQCHC) is an organization that offers a helping hand to people in the community, especially newcomers to Canada and low-income families. “At Pinecrest Terrace Community House, I organize a lot of events and activities including Canada Day program, hiring, apply for funding for youth programs through United Way, and I’m deeply involved in community kitchen, children’s programs and summer camps. My job here is seen as more operational as opposed to the policy issues at Pinecrest-Queensway. The Youth Make it Happen (program), which was my brainchild, won awards from the United Way.”
But volunteering is a two-way street; you give and you get. “Remember that I started volunteering at age 13,” said Naim. “Meaning that whatever skills I can boast of are from volunteering. Instead of me bringing skills into volunteering, I am actually taking skills away from volunteering to other opportunities.”
“While volunteering, you are always busy doing something new,” said Naim when discussing his enjoyment of volunteering. “You will see satisfaction, and I enjoy the gratification that comes with volunteering. As young as I am, the seniors in my community now look up to me as their advocate. The children are also looking forward to becoming the president of the tenant association, simply because a young person is holding the position. I enjoy the trust and confidence bestowed on me.”
Naim’s final thoughts on the subject sum up volunteering to a “T”. “Working as a volunteer is by far the most effective way of abolishing ignorance. It shows that there is love and care in the world. My regret is that I have not volunteered enough, but I wish everyone can be a volunteer to make the world a better place.”
What does a retired engineer do to keep productive? Bill Robinson found a way to pass his specialized knowledge on to a new generation.
“When I retired, I thought it was time for me to help my community out and give back what I have gained from the community,” said Bill when asked why he decided to volunteer. “Volunteering is how I fill my days since I retired, even though I was volunteering before I retired.” And he’s been volunteering for years. “Approximately 25 years. I was volunteering in other homework clubs in Bel Air. When it was closed down, I decided to find one in the West End. That was how I came to find Michele Heights (a community house) two years ago.” And Bill has not let his experience go to waste. “I worked in a community house before at the Bel Air community. I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from a community house. There were not too many surprises between the two communities. However, the one major surprise I had was the difference in the learning styles and needs of the children in the two communities.”
As a volunteer, Bill is a teacher/tutor. “I help children on one-on-one basis with their homework on the Home Work club at Michele Heights.” His skill as an engineer comes in very handy here. “I hold a Bachelor and a Masters in electrical engineering. So I basically help the children with my mathematical skills in solving their math problems.”
Volunteering has been a great experience for Bill as a retiree. “I enjoy what I am doing. The thing about volunteering is that, if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, you can always find another volunteering opportunity, because there are a lot of them around.” But there is one thing in particular he enjoys about volunteering – the good he does. “I feel good when I go through the helping process for the day and indeed somebody is helped. The greatest thing that I enjoy is the challenges you face when helping someone and the satisfaction that you get when you succeed. Above all, when the people really show that they appreciate the effort I put into their lives.”
Bill has learned some important things from volunteering. “I have learned a real sense of satisfaction in accomplishing things. You have learned to be patient, by putting myself in someone else’s shoes. I have developed teaching skills with younger children. Above all, I have learned to appreciate other problems community houses face apart from the presenting problem that one may be working on.”
“Absolutely!” said Bill when asked if he would recommend volunteering to others. “I think it’s great to do a thing like that. There are a number of different things to be done. You can match different skills just to help. By volunteering, you can learn a lot about a community rather than just reading about it.”