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Life with purpose: volunteering opens new doors

By Laurie Young
I’ve always wanted a life that I can be proud of. I get the most satisfaction out of helping others.
This was temporarily taken away from me in 2012. I live with a progressive neuromuscular disease that has left me a quadriplegic. At the time I was working at the Worker’s Compensation Board as a Case Manager. The 9 to 10 hour days were too much and I was forced to take an early retirement.

Portrait of Laurie Young
I was grief stricken. It wasn’t time for me to quit giving back. I needed to rebuild my life into a life with purpose. I have always had an interest in writing and communications so I sought out volunteer positions where I could hone my skills. It was then that I came across the Canadian Red Cross. It was a remarkable experience and a fabulous learning opportunity.

I began by writing stories about fellow volunteers for the Red Cross blog or pieces for the Report Back. The support I received was incredible! Along with writing I have an interest in media relations. I received media training and did on call shifts with the media phone. The pinnacle of my experience was representing the Red Cross on CTV for the "Holiday for Haiyan" event. Not only did I meet some great people, it was an incredible honour to represent the Red Cross on TV.
There was still an abundance of new opportunities. I heard about the Respect Education Program and knew immediately that I needed to be a part of it. As a Respect Education volunteer I would go to schools and talk about the importance of healthy dating relationships. It was a privilege to hear student’s experiences and to provide information that hopefully would prevent them from entering an abusive relationship. It meant a lot to me when I was the first person a student would confide in. This enabled me to connect them with resources that could help them get out of an abusive relationship. Given that I have a knack for public speaking I had the honour of representing The Canadian Red Cross during the Walmart campaign. I was an ambassador for two campaigns. Connecting with others and letting people know about the great work the Red Cross does was fun. I met many people and I inspired them to spread our message to customers.

Portrait of Laurie and her husband TimI not only volunteered with the Red Cross. Two years ago I volunteered with Canadian Mental Health on the organizing committee for the Defeat Depression Walk. I have my own experience with mental illness and was asked to be a speaker at the walk. It was an amazing twist of fate. Once they found out about my experience as a Respect Education volunteer, I was offered a position as a Mental Health educator. To this day, it has been the best career move yet.

Volunteering is more than making use of your time. For me it has been the opportunity to be a part of something greater, something that fills my soul and has been the way to reshape my life into something beautiful after losing my career as a case manager. It has been a challenge and an eye-opener. The Red Cross will always feel like home to me. I am happy to say that I have once again returned to volunteer with the digital communications team. This might be the beginning of another life-changing journey.
Make a difference and learn how you can volunteer  today.

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