Volunteering to make a difference

My name is Maria Renee Monteiro. I have been living in east Toronto for about nine years. When I first came to Canada in 2009, I was excited to think that I would find a job very easily since I had a lot of work experience from back home. But it was not long before my expectations turned into disappointment. The reason why I could not get hired was because I did not have any Canadian work experience, like many other new immigrants.

Nevertheless I knew that there were lots of other options out there for me, and the first one that came to mind was volunteering. Well now I’m truly happy that I chose to be a volunteer even though I knew that volunteers don’t get paid and I wouldn’t generate any income. My main reason to choose volunteer work was because I had a passion to help others. This I learned from many spiritual leaders, especially Mother Theresa, who said that helping hands are holier than praying lips.

With this thought in mind, I have always found myself enjoying volunteer work and it has brought so much peace and happiness to my world that I could not ask for anything more. I have been volunteering with Access Alliance’s Seniors’ Programs (Seniors’ Exercise Classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays) at Access Point on Danforth since Neighborhood Centre merged with Access Alliance over two years ago. Besides the above-mentioned programs, I also attend and contribute as a participant to other Access Alliance programs such as other recreational activities under Seniors Programs, pre-diabetic classes, community dining programs, rooftop garden programs, focus group meetings, health, finance and safety issues workshops, climate change and other community development meetings at Access Alliance.

I have always felt that I’m a part of the community and am treated as a valuable member. I know needs may differ from one person to another but as a volunteer, I hear people’s needs and answer their calls. I have met so many seniors who are alone and live by themselves or in nursing homes. What I offer them is just a simple hello, a kind word, a sweet smile, a gentle touch, a bear hug and a bit of cheer. The seniors feel welcome and know that there are communities that care for them and that there are lots of free programs they can attend. This helps them to not feel isolated anymore.

Volunteering at Access Alliance with Seniors Programs mainly along with others, has not only made a vast impact in my life but also helped me to make a bigger impact in the lives of many others. It has also helped me to be more active, learn new skills, build up lasting friendship, overcome differences and lead a healthier and happier life.

The most important thing I have learned is to smile. As they say, peace begins with a smile. I have also learned to love and I love all people regardless of their religion or caste. I know I can’t do great things but I’m always able to do small things with kindness and respect for others.

I’m so thankful to Access Alliance for giving me this rewarding opportunity to be a volunteer and to be able to reach out to people and get them involved in the activities of their interest. I am lucky and am glad that I have been awarded during this year on Volunteer Appreciation Day for my contribution of over 100 volunteer hours to Seniors Programs of Access Alliance as a valuable volunteer.

With this note, I would like to encourage people who have some free time at their disposal to come out and share their talents with others to make our community a better place to live.