Helping hands of 2020

This year was challenging for so many of us as the pandemic changed the way all of us lived. Usually we look back at the year by naming the top blogs but, this year, we thought it was much more important to take a look at those who stepped up in a time of need to help others in 2020. These volunteers gave of themselves when their daily lives were changed as well.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ”– Fred Rogers, aka Mister Rogers

In difficult times, look for the helpers, the famous television host of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood once told children to do during “scary times”. With this in mind, we invite you to look no further as we present to you 10 stories of those who were definitely helpers this year.

Bavleen Kaur sitting beside a laptopWhen Bavleen Kaur moved to Winnipeg from India, she wanted to volunteer in her new community. She joined the Canadian Red Cross SmartStart program, which teaches injury prevention to newcomers to Canada.

Serendipitously, she ended up applying her newfound safety skills almost immediately. On the same day she attended a SmartStart presentation, she came across an unconscious man in the bus shelter.

Here she shares how she helps other newcomers: Winnipeg volunteer shares her experiences to help fellow newcomers prevent injury

Canadian Red Cross volunteer Pierre Paquet in a maskPierre Paquet has been a Red Cross response volunteer since October 2019. His help is needed during disasters such as house fires, larger-scale emergencies such as floods, or various humanitarian activities that mobilize the Red Cross volunteer force.

“Every day is different on the ground. But one thing never changes, which is the part I like best about volunteering: having a positive impact on people in need.”
See what else he has to say in his story: Pierre Paquet on the front lines during COVID-19.

Joshua Makarov pictured in a maskJoshua Makarov was a university student when he decided to give back to his community by volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross.

“The Red Cross is an international organization that offers aid to so many in various situations, including countries where I personally have family. I believe that offering my help in local disasters with the Red Cross is a step towards a healthier and more compassionate community.”

Here’s his story: In his words – one young volunteer shares why he got involved with Red Cross.

Jean-Anne on her computer outside in her backyardWhen COVID-19 initially locked down everything, Jean-Anne Booker wondered how it would affect her volunteer work with the Canadian Red Cross. After all, disasters don’t care about pandemics.

But the Red Cross quickly pivoted to continue to provide much-needed assistance and, it turned out, that Jean-Anne had one of her busiest summers since she started volunteering with Red Cross four years ago.

Read her story: A summer season of helping for a Saskatoon volunteer – all from her backyard.

Al Stickney standing in front of a waterfall while on vacation pre-pandemic.Early in the pandemic, cruise passengers were all taken to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton in Ontario for a mandated 14 days of isolation.

For Al Stickney, this is where he had the opportunity to see the work of the Red Cross up close and personal.

From sailing across the Pacific Ocean to isolation at a Canadian military base, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken this man on a strange journey that ended with a new volunteer position with the Canadian Red Cross.

Read Quarantine to volunteer – one Saskatoon man’s story.

Canadian Red Cross Adele who performed Wellness Checks during the pandemicAmidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian Red Cross volunteers are working in local communities to assist the most vulnerable populations. In partnership with the City of Ottawa as part of its Human Needs Task Force for COVID-19, trained volunteers visited residents to ensure their basic needs were being met.

Volunteers Luc and Adele, administering door-to-door Safety and Wellness checks in Ottawa, share this video in Red Cross volunteers in Ottawa provide wellness checks amidst pandemic.

Sandra Christie pictured prior to the pandemic.Adapting to the pandemic, Sandra Christie of Halifax, a Canadian Red Cross volunteer for four years, drew on her background as a registered nurse to lead a Safety and Wellbeing team that has been providing virtual support by phone to people feeling isolated, anxious or needing unique help addressing issues relating to COVID-19.

"Some were alone and having a challenging time and just needed someone to talk to, and a few needed definite linkages to mental health and other resources,” says Sandra.

Read her story in Lending a helping and virtual volunteer hand in Halifax during COVID-19.

Zoe Thierry in a Saskatoon office, sitting by a computerOriginally from France, Zoe Thiery has spent the last two years volunteering with us. Steering her own volunteer career has helped Zoe discover a position she truly loves.

“People are not just letting me do the basic stuff, they also ask what I’d like to do. My role has been growing and growing which feels great!”

After discovering how much she enjoys working with people, she shifted her working career as well to pursue human resources. Read more about her story in Using volunteer opportunities to discover a new passion.

Friendly Phone Call program participants Ruth, left, and Gwen, pictured right.After retiring, Gwen Schick decided to give back and started volunteering as a Friendly Phone volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross in Saskatchewan. A critical service during this pandemic, Friendly Phone volunteers make a huge difference helping seniors manage physical and social isolation.

“The amount of time doesn’t matter. Even short contact is so meaningful. Such a little thing makes such a big difference. I love it. I really love it.”

Read more in Friendly phone calls make all the difference.

Fisher Tammy Saunders volunteers for Canadian Red Cross in her free time, pictured here on her boat.For International Women’s Day on March 8th, we shared inspiring stories of women who work with us to help others. In their own words, hear from five amazing volunteers, their inspiring experiences, and why they give back. One being Tammy Saunders, a commercial fisher from Nova Scotia:

“Kindness is one of the most undervalued virtues that we must share,” Tammy said when asked what inspires her to volunteer, “It is free to give and priceless when received.”

Read hers and four others in In her own words: five women share why they give back.
Thank you to all our volunteers who go above and beyond to help others - this year and every other.

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