Posted on behalf of Cicy Guimond
Not all superheroes wear capes. Some superheroes work tirelessly to support the community and I had an opportunity to connect with two such superheroes.
Cellina is a prospective student for the Bachelor of Social Work program at UBC, and was looking for volunteer opportunities that would improve communities through direct interaction with marginalized society groups. That was when she came across Kits Care Café, a weekly meal program “jointly hosted by nearby churches to address hunger and social isolation”1. Due to COVID-19, their programming has adjusted from community meals to providing grocery hampers.
Similarly, Oasis Café, where Candace volunteers, is hosted by Tenth Church and partners with local groups to provide “a haven for people to find refreshment and renewal”2. During COVID-19, they have transitioned to providing fruits, vegetables, and take-out meals.
Cicy: Can you walk me through the steps of a typical shift?
Cellina: A typical shift volunteering at Kits Care Café requires a lot of communication with guests and a fair amount of lifting! Every shift, I arrive at the location at 12:30 p.m. and go through the required COVID-19 procedures. This involves signing in, sanitizing, and equipping myself with the proper PPE. I then unload the donated food items onto tables and organize based on their categories. Every week, volunteers are assigned different roles throughout their shift. One role is placing down social distancing tape for guests to stand on while waiting in line, and another role includes filling up the grocery bags with assorted produce. Once everyone has completed their role and setup is finished, we start letting guests through. Similar to setup, roles also vary during the food service. One volunteer typically stays at the back tables, bagging the produce, while another volunteer goes down the line of guests, greeting and conducting informal wellness checks with them. But where the most action takes place is at the food tables where volunteers hand out grocery bags and offer an array of additional food items for guests to choose from. Once our service concludes, volunteers will start cleanup which involves taking down and sanitizing tables, breaking down cardboard, and composting leftover food items. My shift concludes with signing out, a quick team debrief and going home!
Candace: I am a part of the “outside team” which encompasses setting up our station outside the Tenth Church doors and serving our guests who visit us. I will typically start my shift off by setting up the tables and outdoor lights. Then interact with the guests at the fruits and vegetable station where I will help prepare a bag of produce of their preference. Throughout my shift, I am getting to know the guests by learning their names while we share stories with each other. When the line of guests starts to subside, the volunteers will gradually go inside and share a meal together that was served to the guests. There are many recurring guests that join us for dinner every week and therefore forming friendships is something that is welcomed and comes with time.
Cicy: Would you be able to share a memorable story from your volunteer experience?
Cellina: The job description of working with vulnerable groups entails interacting with diverse individuals and it is common to come across those individuals that either come from stressful situations or are simply just having a bad day and may not be that kind to you. However, with this drawback comes its advantage, in which I also get to work with a lot of people who are so generous and appreciative of the voluntary service we are providing them. One experience that resonated with me was this one time a guest came by and told me that she was deeply appreciative of our services. She then told me that she “bets no one has given me a flower yet today,” and proceeded to give me a daisy she picked from her garden as a token of her appreciation. This lady made my entire day through that small gesture and the whole experience really helped to reaffirm my career choice and why helping vulnerable groups is such a great passion of mine.
Cicy: What has been your favourite part of volunteering?
Candace: My favourite part of serving with Oasis Cafe is being able to positively impact the community through social change by being able to put myself in others’ shoes and connect with the guests. Volunteering at Oasis Cafe has humbled me in many aspects and has helped me learn many life lessons, giving me a broader worldview of how individual actions and community initiatives can greatly impact the lives of vulnerable populations.
Cicy: Thank you for taking the time to share these great initiatives with us, and serving the local community!