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Kennedy Martins and Olga Castro-De Barros are university students completing a volunteer work placement at Circle of Care.

1) What inspired you to begin volunteering for Circle of Care?

Kennedy: Circle of Care is amazing and helps the community in various ways such as providing companionship, grocery shopping assistance, in-home care, bereavement support and social gatherings. I truly believe this organization changes the lives of so many and brings positivity to their clients. They care about the client’s needs and make them their top priority; they want to ensure their clients are happy.

Olga: I was interested in volunteering with Circle of Care as I believed they brought a unique perspective into volunteer work within the field of gerontology. I was intrigued by what I could offer to Circle of Care, and what they, in return, could offer me in terms of experience and exposure to the population.

2) Is there a specific moment you recall while volunteering that made you feel like you made a real difference?

Kennedy: I assist one of my clients with grocery shopping. My client always tells me how appreciative they are and how they enjoy my company. I feel like I’ve made a real difference in their life by providing them some company and assisting them with a task that they are not able to do on their own. My client always offers me a drink or treats to show their gratitude and I always leave feeling good about the work that I am doing.

Olga: It’s the little moments I have with my clients that make me feel like I’m making a difference. It’s the moments where I visit my clients and develop what feels like a friendship with them. Though it may not seem like a major difference in the eyes of many, I believe that it’s an extremely impactful difference in the lives of my clients. A simple visit where I spend time with them and make them laugh is enough to make me feel content with volunteering.

3) Has volunteering changed your outlook in any way?

Olga: Volunteering has made me become a lot more grateful for the many things I have in life, has made me realize how valuable time is, and how important it is to spend our time helping others and spreading happiness when possible.

Kennedy: Volunteering has made me realize that the relationship between clients and the volunteers is mutual. We give our time to those who may need extra assistance or may feel lonely, but the clients also give back to us. I’ve learned a lot of valuable life lessons and been given amazing advice from my clients. They have taught me so much about what we should value in life and what we should not take for granted. I’ve realized that client relations are extremely valuable and that we can learn a lot from each other.

4) What makes a good volunteer?

Olga: I think a good volunteer is someone who is considerate, and empathic; someone who is willing to develop a connection with someone, despite differences, and learn/grow from these differences.

Kennedy: I think there are many qualities that make a good volunteer; however, I think the main skill should be active listening. It is important volunteers listen to their clients, understand, and remember details. Based off of my experience, clients feel that you genuinely care when you are curious and have an interest in getting to know them. The more you know about your client the better you understand what topics they enjoy talking about, what topics to avoid, activities they enjoy that you can incorporate to your visits and build a strong connection. I also think volunteers should be empathetic, genuine, respectful, self-aware, and patient. You never know who you may encounter so it is important to treat everyone with kindness and to ensure your aware of your own boundaries and how much you want to disclose. Taking your cues from the client is extremely important.

5) What advice would you give to someone who is considering a volunteer position?

Kennedy: I would highly suggest that people volunteer because it is such a rewarding experience in various aspects. Meeting new people and hearing people’s life journeys is so humbling and amazing. It is a privilege to be let into the lives of people you never knew before. Through volunteering you are able to learn a lot about others as well as yourself. Volunteering opens up many doors of opportunities and can assist with building upon transferable skills. There is a lot to give and gain through volunteering.

Olga: For anyone considering a volunteer position, I would advise them to keep an open mind as many things will arise throughout your volunteer experience. Nevertheless, volunteering will provide you with such amazing opportunities to build new relationships and gain exposure to new populations. I would tell any new volunteer to try to receive as much experience as they could to truly make the most of their volunteer position.

6) What are your interests outside of volunteering?

Kennedy: Outside of volunteering I enjoy photography, scrapbooking, watching movies and reading.

Olga: I love to travel and explore, be it outside of the country, or finding the little gems hidden within Ontario.

7) Do you have any words to live by?

Olga: In the past few years, I’ve chosen to live by the words of Haruki Murakami, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” In my eyes, I see this quote as a reminder to keep pushing forward, despite the hardships, in hopes of better things to come.

Kennedy: There are a couple of phrases that I live by. I live by “everything happens for a reason” and “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”.

I truly believe that the universe has its own way of having everything fall into place at the right time. Those words help me to have a positive outlook on life and be optimistic about learning opportunities, employment, and connecting with people.

The second phrase motivates me to follow my passion which is working with the aging population. I believe that if I enjoy the work I am doing, that it will not feel as though I’m working simply to make money. I want to have a career where I have a positive impact on others as well as feel that I’m fulfilling my purpose in life.

8) What is the most recent book you read?

Olga: As I am currently in school, the most recent books I have read are all text books, and I don’t have much time to read for leisurely purposes. However, the last book I read leisurely was All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.

Kennedy: The most recent book I read is called The Lost Causes. It is about five teenagers who are given supernatural powers in order to help the FBI solve a murder and robbery. I highly enjoy reading especially mystery books. I would recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys plot twists.

9) Where is “home”?

Kennedy: Home for me is not only where I live, but also wherever my family and friends are. I feel most at home when I am with people who support and care about me.

Olga: To me, home is wherever my loved ones are, wherever I feel happiest and most at peace.

10) Chocolate or Vanilla?

Kennedy: Definitely chocolate.

Olga: Same, chocolate!