National Volunteer Week profile: Oliver Whelan

Topics: National, Newfoundland and Labrador, Volunteer
April 07, 2014

This week, the Canadian Red Cross celebrates all volunteers during National Volunteer Week, April 6-12, 2014.

In 2009, Oliver Whelan joined the Red Cross looking for an opportunity to become active in his community. Now, as a Personal Disaster Assistance Team (PDAT) Responder, Oliver responds locally to house fires and personal disasters. In addition, Oliver has had the opportunity to provide assistance outside of his own community of St. John’s, Newfoundland, during Hurricane Igor on the Burin Peninsula and in Labrador during the wildfires in June 2013.

Not only does Oliver offer his time as a Disaster Management volunteer, but he is also is the Chair of the Atlantic Youth Engagement Committee and sits as the Atlantic Representative on the National Youth Engagement Advisory Committee. He felt that as a youth, it was relevant and important to him to have the opportunity to provide input towards Red Cross youth engagement.

“Disaster Management is exciting, always a challenge and always new”, says Oliver. “It puts you outside of your comfort zone, which is a good thing for me.” Oliver feels that it’s important that he gives back to his community while also having fun doing so.

One of Oliver’s greatest experiences as a Red Cross volunteer was being one of the first people to get across the damaged crossing to the Burin Peninsula following Hurricane Igor. “Seeing the look of relief on people’s faces when they saw Red Cross arriving to provide assistance was inspiring,” said Oliver. It was that moment that Oliver realized, as a new recruit to the program, that he wished to continue with this kind of volunteer work.

When he’s not volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross, Oliver’s life includes working full-time while finishing up his Masters in Mechanical Engineering, and also being in the Army Reserve. Oliver has just adopted two little girls and at one point, he decided to take a break from his Disaster Management volunteering, however, he quickly realized he couldn’t stay away and was back before he knew it.

It is because of volunteers like Oliver, that the Canadian Red Cross is able to deliver services to the most vulnerable communities from coast to coast across Canada.