Cross volunteering, making a difference, opening new opportunities, changing lives

Topics: Saskatchewan
April 19, 2023

In September 2022, Kim and Beth, both Emergency Management volunteers with the Canadian Red Cross in Saskatchewan, pivoted to volunteer in another capacity within the CRC and assist Friendly Calls with program evaluations.
The role was to conduct surveys with program participants to evaluate the impact the program has made over the last two and half years.
Since 2019, Friendly Calls in Saskatchewan has seen an increase of eight hundred and fifty percent in participant growth and over a two thousand percent increase in call volume.
Volunteers have spent over six thousand hours calling program participants to help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. 
“I was totally blown away by the comments participants made,” says Kim “A participant pulled out a harmonica and played a song after the evaluation was complete. After every evaluation I left with a smile on my face.”  
Red Cross volunteers are vital to all the work we do from Logistics, Administration, Philanthropy, Risk Reduction, Emergency Management, Friendly Calls and more. We are One Red Cross, where volunteers impact across the organization and across programs. 
Kim, who has volunteered with the CRC since 2016, said, “I met such nice people through CRC (Canadian Red Cross). Best of the best people and for that reason I would recommend volunteering” “I received as much back in the little time I gave. Spreading human kindness, make communities and the world a better place.”  
 A program like Friendly Calls is vital considering the isolation that was brought about by the pandemic. “The pandemic insisted that we isolated ourselves and we did not have social interactions, which was hard on people. Even today people are having trouble getting outside and have lost social connections,” explains Kim, “This is an opportunity for us to reach out to let them know we care and can help. [The Friendly Calls Program] is unbelievably valuable to emotional, mental, and cognitive health and bridges social isolation,” 
As Kim engaged in cross program volunteering, she shared how grateful she was and surprised to learn that people from all walks of life were taking time to help others and boost those who are feeling isolated, “As their relationships developed, there was a definite caring about each other. They (volunteers and participants) established important relationships which surprised me.”  
Shawna Green, Manager for Friendly Calls Program, praised cross volunteering, sharing that it allows volunteers to impact lives of many through several programs. Giving volunteers the ability and opportunity to stay engaged and learn new skills.
“We are One Red Cross, where volunteers impact across the organization, to have volunteers willing to give their time, dedication and heart to the Red Cross allows us the ability to touch the lives of so many.”   
Beth, who has volunteered for with the CRC for 30 years, explains, “Sometimes the volunteers are the only people these participants talk to in a week. One lady shared that they had no family and did not go out of her house. The volunteer was the only person they had.” She reflects, it was just amazing, and I never thought that people needed this kind of a service and the Friendly Calls Program fit everyone’s needs.”  
Cross volunteering has allowed these two Emergency Management Volunteers to participate in more than one area. This experience has given them an invaluable chance to learn about additional opportunities and resources within the network of the Red Cross and Volunteers from across the organization. The experience of cross volunteering allowed them both to contribute to more than one area or program offering them both additional experience and skills while at the same time using the tools they have in different programs.  
“I get so inspired,” adds Beth, “I know what I do helps someone else. If you are looking for a good experience, volunteering with the CRC is going to give you a great experience.” 
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