On this page, you'll meet some of the devoted and inspiring people who are making a difference and having a positive impact on the people around them and on the community.
September 2018 - Elise Hamill
A Passion for Care
For Elise Hamill, a third-year student completing an Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in Political Science, community engagement means “being part of the community in a valuable and meaningful way.”
Elise started volunteering in high school in her hometown of Paris, Ontario. Like all Ontario high school students, she needed to complete her 40 hours of volunteer work to graduate. That said, Elise really enjoyed volunteering at Telfer Place, a retirement residence, engaging with seniors through recreational activities. Believing in the importance of continuing to engage meaningfully with seniors, her friend told her about the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement and she searched for a placement. Given how much she enjoyed volunteering at Telfer Place, she decided to volunteer at Carefor Guest House for those living with dementia this summer.
“I have gained a strong sense of empathy and compassion for the aging population and their families and caregivers,” Elise says. During her time volunteering at Carefor, she learned that the elderly can often feel isolated, and she feels very grateful every day that she can be there with them and be a part of their lives.
Elise describes the staff at Carefor as being very kind and welcoming. She has learned so much from them about dementia and how it affects body and mind. She works alongside the Carefor staff to improve the physical and mental well-being of each individual guest in both group and one-on-one settings by encouraging participation in activities such as physical exercises, baking, and crafts.
The most memorable activity for Elise, however, was a gardening project with seniors. Together, they grew vegetables and flowers, watered and cared for the plants every day and made homemade garden decorations. These activities help provide guests with a sense of belonging, love and accomplishment. In return, Elise was able to spend lots of time with the guests and learn about them, their families and what they appreciate in their lives.
When asked why she volunteers with seniors and not in a facility related to her field of study, Elise says it is important to fuel her own interests and to strike a balance. “For the most part, it is simply because I enjoy the experience, and I know it is meaningful work. Also, volunteering is a great way to enhance resumés and provide additional references and skills for future job searches.” Elise believes that volunteers must always be open to new experiences and challenges, be eager and interested in their work goals and have time to offer. But most importantly, they must care for others and prioritize the needs of others and the community.
Elise encourages every student to volunteer. “Your contributions make a difference in the lives of the people you volunteer with and for, and that is valued, necessary and appreciated. It provides so many different experiences and opens up so many doors when thinking about life after university.”
For its part, Carefor continues to seek out passionate volunteers. Sign on to the Community Engagement Navigator or contact them directly for more information.
When asked how her volunteering might influence her future, Elise says that she has become passionate about it and would like to become involved in advocacy work on behalf of seniors. Indeed, because of her dedication this summer and this passion for making life a little bit sweeter for seniors, Elise Hamill is our volunteer of the month.
By: Zhongjun Huang