A former college teacher, Margot was looking for the opportunity to lead art classes with children and youth. She first came to Homes First through as a volunteer leading art programming at our Shuter St. building, and participated in other community events. When Homes First staff began setting up an after-school program, they knew Margot would be the perfect fit.
“I think art programs can be really beneficial for everyone, for a lot of reasons that extend beyond just learning techniques,” says Margot. “Art classes can teach kids to innovate and experiment, to increase concentration skills and look for solutions.”
It’s only been a few weeks but Wednesdays have become the best day for the kids at Meegwetch, with new activities and crafts to try. Making friends can be hard, but the kids instantly took to Margot and look forward to their time with her. Each week they talk about the possibilities for the next class and find ways to combine new craft trends, like making slime, with activities Margot did with her own kids.
“It’s very fulfilling to watch kids discover their own strengths while they're having fun. I'd encourage everyone to find their niche for volunteering, there’s a lot to be gained for everyone.”
Jackie decided he wanted to volunteer after a car accident. He was driving on the highway with his family when it happened and the car ended up in a ditch. Everyone was fine and they were getting help, but he was amazed at how many people stopped to check up on them. It was that kindness that inspired him to give back.
So he went online and found a posting for the position of Donations Organizer at Homes First’s Kennedy shelter. Since then he’s made friends with the staff and the supervisors, and enjoys putting in his time to help his community. He says organizing the large piles of donations is good for the women using the shelter, since then they can find what they need and like more easily.
“I feel very good about doing this work.”
Out of all the great (and weird) donations he seen, Jackie thinks books are the best. An IT consultant for a financial institution, he’s not surprised so many books are donated, since most people have gone digital with their reading material. Despite that, he believes that “books are the best way to inspire people.”
While he’s grateful and happy to volunteer now, Jackie was hesitant about starting his volunteer work.
He was worried it would take time away from his family. But since starting three months ago, he’s found it rewarding and encourages others to do the same.
“I think the more people who volunteer in your community, the better community you will have.”
Tuesdays have always been a busy, but special day for Kate. Between doing classes in the afternoon and another in the evening, a volunteer opportunity with those experiencing mental health issues felt right. Now, she’s teaching a yoga and meditation class at Meegwetch on Tuesday nights, making her special day even better.
“I go to bed on Tuesdays with a big smile on my face,” she says. “It warms my heart to volunteer my time and help make people's lives a little more relaxed and calm.”
Kate found Homes First through a staff member she used to work with. When an opportunity to teach yoga came up, he reached out and she was a perfect fit. While it’s only been a few weeks since starting her class a Meegwetch, she’s already gotten to know the participants and how to best adapt each yoga pose and method so it’s suitable and accessible to all.
“Providing affordable and accessible yoga has always been very important to me, especially in downtown Toronto. Yoga classes feel like an activity for the rich or privileged, when in reality, those who would struggle to afford a monthly membership are probably the people that need yoga classes most.”
When asked why she decided to volunteer on Tuesday, despite already having a busy day, she said it just felt right.
“It's understandable to be hesitant to volunteer because these days our time feels so fleeting … but 30 minutes or an hour here or there really isn't a lot of time, and the benefits from volunteering – using your skills or special knowledge to brighten someone else's day - is a truly fulfilling experience.”