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

Circle of Care’s Link Generations program drew me in the moment I saw its listing on Volunteer Toronto. I was looking around the city for opportunities to give back and I happened to come across this program. I immediately knew that I wanted to participate!

As my grandparents all live very far from me, I didn’t have many occasions to engage in conversations with people from an older demographic. I felt that this would be a wonderful opportunity for me to grow my interpersonal skills, and also learn how to make every conversation I had with my grandparents (and all older adults) something that they would enjoy!

The Link Generations program runs for 5 weeks, and I felt that I learned something each week. After the session ended, I signed up again for another 5 weeks. I valued the stories that I heard about life experiences, life lessons, and words of wisdom from others, and I wanted to experience that again! It wasn’t only the older adults, but the youth as well, who made this program worthwhile.

2. Can you describe your volunteering role in the Link Generations program?

As a youth participant, I would join a Zoom call weekly. The coordinators would have a discussion topic ready for us (which we would know about a week in advance) and after being split into breakout rooms, we would discuss that topic together.

Some days I had a lot to share, and other days I would simply listen. The coordinators always chose topics that could be discussed to a degree that each participant felt comfortable with. For example, one of the discussion topics was “Music through the Ages”. While one participant briefly shared a favourite song, another shared the emotional significance of an artist they had followed for decades. In these Zoom calls, it was always comfortable, and people had the ability to share as much or as little as they chose.

Sometimes a participant may have had nothing to share, but there were also times where it could have been too hard to share something on a particular topic.

3. Has volunteering changed your outlook in any way?

Although I realized it before, I believe that volunteering with Link Generations has cemented my outlook that every single person has a story to share that is unique to them.

I believe that going into every interaction with this mindset is truly wonderful! Each of us has our individual beliefs and mannerisms, which have ultimately been formed by our experiences or the experiences of those around us. I think that by acknowledging this fact and living by it, I can better appreciate everyone around me.

4. What’s one thing you look forward to in the Link Generations program?

One of the many things that I would look forward to during these calls was the many parallels that could be drawn between the lives of all the participants. This was the case regardless of where we lived, where we grew up, or in what generation we were born. It was fascinating to see how truly similar we all are.

5. What’s one positive moment/memory you remember at Circle of Care?

Resilience was one of the discussion topics and it allowed for very raw and emotional conversations to happen. One of the older adults shared the journey she took toward embracing herself and putting herself first despite the cultural stereotypes and prejudices that were holding her back. She spoke on finding her individual freedom, living for her happiness, and embracing herself in her entirety. She went on to tell us youth to live by these same principles from the get-go rather than coming to this conclusion after years of heartache.

I remember this story often, thinking about how nostalgic she was sharing the heartbreaking parts of her story, but how bright her smile was as she ultimately came to a happy conclusion.

6. Do you plan to continue to volunteer in the future?

Outside of the Link Generations program, I regularly volunteer so I believe that I will continue to do so in my free time! I love meeting and working with new people, and I love how much joy it brings me to see someone I’m working with smile in my presence! These weekly Zoom calls were something I eagerly anticipated each week and it absolutely made my day when I was able to speak sincerely with the other participants.

7. What’s one piece of advice you would give to another volunteer or potential volunteer?

Come with an open mind and with an open heart! And come ready to have a good conversation! Everyone here is here to talk and to experience human connection, and while it can be nerve-racking to meet new people, share as much as you feel comfortable with.