Honda Canada gives back with Friendly Calls program

By: Caitlin Simpson, Canadian Red Cross Digital Volunteer
A friendly call can turn a person’s day around, change their perspective, and let them know they’re not alone. Human beings are social creatures, so when someone feels disconnected from that, it can really take a toll on their mental wellbeing. This is where the Canadian Red Cross Friendly Calls Program comes in. It helps people to feel that connection and reminds us that we are all in this together.
A woman sitting at a dining room table holding a phone to her earThe Friendly Calls Program pairs specially-trained volunteers with isolated Canadians for weekly phone calls to provide support, companionship and links to resources in the community.
When valued members of our Disaster Response Alliance, Honda Canada Foundation heard of the program, they were quick to recognize its importance in these turbulent times, and jump in to help.
Laura Heasman, manager of communications, sponsorships and events at Honda Canada shares about the company’s associates who are quick to help.
“Honda Canada aims to be a company Canadians want to exist, and giving back to the communities where we live, work and play is a large part of our company culture,” says Laura. “I continue to be both amazed and inspired by our associates who are quick to volunteer with a variety of Foundation partners, offering their support to everything from mental health and homelessness to children living with critical illnesses through our Honda Gives Back associate giving program.”
Three volunteers from Honda Canada – Emmanuelle Connelly, Tejal Mistry, and Debbie Lezar – emphasized that not only do they help others through the Friendly Calls Program, but they also look forward to the weekly calls themselves. We spoke to them about their experience.
Emmanuelle first heard of the program through their Honda Gives Back initiative, and immediately felt it was right up her alley. “I live in a rural area and was lucky enough to have lots of people around during the lockdowns. I didn’t have to endure the isolation a lot of people faced. It felt wrong not to try and help people during the pandemic,” she recalls.
Emmanuelle talks fondly of the calls with her client and is always touched that her client checks to make sure she’s okay too. “It’s amazing how people who have never met can care for each other. It’s never just one way.”
Tejal was quick to respond when an email went out to Honda Canada personnel looking for volunteers for the program. “I wanted to volunteer, but with the pandemic, I was afraid to meet people face to face. This was a perfect opportunity to help make a difference and do it virtually,” she explains.
Tejal explains how one hour goes by so quickly as her client always has so many interesting stories to tell. From immigrating to Canada from Europe, to various jobs they have held, there’s never a dull moment.
“Every Monday, I look forward to the call and wonder what our conversations will be about. The client brings a smile to my face and I can’t wait until we chat again.”
Debbie heard about the program in February this year. “Loneliness doesn’t get any media attention but it is a real part of so many peoples’ lives, so I immediately realised this is a way I can make a difference for someone,” she shares.
When Debbie immigrated to Canada, she experienced immense loneliness and felt she could relate to how participants in the program may feel. She thinks about her phone calls with clients and how grateful they are to hear from her, and is happy to give back.

“I believe in treating others as you want to be treated, and talking to these clients each week reminds me constantly that we all want to be heard and seen, and this can happen in so many different ways,” she says. “The value of human connection is priceless and if I can make them feel a bit more wanted and loved, then I have done something good for someone and that does good for my soul.”

The Canadian Red Cross is grateful to have Honda Canada and their amazing employees as part of our Disaster Response Alliance. The relationship is strong, and only continues to grow. “The Canadian Red Cross has helped so many in Canada and around the world. I am so proud to be part of a great non-profit organization,” says Tejal.
“The Honda Canada Foundation is proud to support the Disaster Response Alliance program, contributing $200,000 per year to the Canadian Red Cross,” Laura adds.
Support from the Honda Canada Foundation has helped the Canadian Red Cross train and equip over 8,500 emergency response volunteers while building critical readiness and response expertise across the country.
Thank you, Honda Canada, for all that you do.

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