By Lovlyn Dsouza
Lovlyn Dsouza is a resident of St. James Town and volunteers frequently in her community. Currently she is a member of the St. James Town Community Corner’s steering committee. The following are her thoughts on volunteering, given at The Corner’s Volunteer Appreciation event in November 2021.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank The Corner for giving me and many other residents a platform to enhance our skills, build confidence, and make a change in our lives and in the community through the various programs, and volunteering opportunities being offered.
It is amazing to see how The Corner has evolved in these 10 years. My journey with The Corner started 9 years ago as a newcomer to this community. I had my own challenges and struggles like most newcomers. I did not know anyone in this community; everything was so new to me. One day on my walk when I was familiarizing myself with the neighbourhood, I came across The Corner. I happened to enter it and was so excited to see activities and programs in which I could engage and volunteer.
My first volunteering experience was with seniors through Hospice Toronto. As part of the 3-month certification program, it was refreshing to visit The Corner every Friday at 9 a.m. and enjoy a morning breakfast while I connected and interacted with a diverse group of beautiful people. I suddenly began to have a sense of purpose as a newcomer.
I still recall the anxiety I had the first time I was introduced to my senior, whom I eventually supported for 5 years. She was 92 back then, a retired nurse and a woman of great knowledge and substance. It is said, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”; my volunteering experience with my senior totally changed me. I had never done something like this before in my life. She taught me how to be more patient, appreciate the simple pleasures of life, have a strong will power, and to be independent. I enjoyed every moment of my visit to my senior’s home; we sometimes cooked, baked, and made yummy jam together which she sold at the neighbourhood events.
I realised volunteering not only enhances your existing talents and skills, but also teaches you new skills and values. It’s a path of self-discovery and the many years of volunteering have made me a better version of myself.
I have volunteered at The Corner, St. Simon’s afterschool program, The Rekai Centre for seniors, Our Lady of Lourdes gardening group, Art City and 6 years at the Toronto Public Library in the Leading to Reading program. I must say all these experiences as a volunteer have been most rewarding for me. I have interacted and met some of the most beautiful people I never imagined meeting had I not been volunteering.
The Community Corner is a place where diversity is welcomed, and skills and talents are encouraged. It’s a wonderful platform to start off from, use what you have, and take it to the next level.
I have always encouraged my friends, neighbours, and residents of the neighbourhood to volunteer their time, skills, and talents. As a result, this has helped them grow as individuals, build their confidence, and has also provided them with earning opportunities.
To conclude I would like to leave you with these thoughts:
It is in giving that we receive; the rewards you earn as a volunteer physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually make life worthwhile.
If you ever have a doubt about your contribution as a volunteer, remember what the amazing Helen Keller said: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Just like every drop of water an ocean makes; every act of service and kindness, healthier and better communities make.
Wishing you all the very best – be kind, be humble, be fun-loving and be the change you want to see.