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Volunteer Pierre Paquet on the front lines during COVID-19

By Vanessa Racine, social medias coordinator

Pierre 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. He tells us his story on the ground.


Pictured here in a mask, Pierre Paquet has been a Red Cross response volunteer since October 2019.I decided to donate my time to the Red Cross, partly because it’s a leader in first aid training. Before I retired, I worked in fire prevention at the Port of Montreal for nearly 30 years. I was also a paramedic for Urgences-santé in Montreal for 18 years. Given my background, volunteering to help during emergencies was a natural next step.
 

Volunteering during COVID-19 is a little different, but just as gratifying!


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. Right now, I’m distributing food to homeless people in Montreal parks. The tasks depend on where you’re assigned. Upon arriving on site, we always have a meeting with the supervisor, who reminds us about things like COVID-19 safety measures, such as wearing a mask. Then we get started preparing snacks or breakfast. At noon, we hand out lunch. We always end the day with a meeting. We’re fully supported by a supervisor from start to finish, and we feel safe on site.

The pandemic has really changed what a normal day of volunteering looks like. For example, contact is more challenging when you’re wearing a mask and staying physically distant behind plexiglass. That takes away some of the human contact we used to have with the people we serve. Despite everything, the wellness that comes from the assistance we provide has remained consistent. 

Becoming a Red Cross volunteer

I think that the essential qualifications for a volunteer are being available (even if it’s only a few hours a week), being a good listener so you can understand people’s needs and being empathetic and respectful. You also have to know your limits, because some situations aren’t easy. To support volunteers, the Red Cross offers needs-based training.

I encourage everyone to volunteer at the Red Cross! The tasks vary widely, and there’s something for everyone. Anybody can find their niche, whatever personal and professional experience they may have.

Lastly, I think the biggest difference from paid work is that I feel like I get much more than I give when I volunteer, since I’m doing it from the heart and without any expectations. The best thing I can earn is a smile from someone I’ve helped.
 
To explore ways to volunteer at the Red Cross, visit redcross.ca/volunteer.
 
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