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Volunteer makes a splash

Taylor Robinson is this week's Volinspire Volunteer of the Week.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I was first inspired to volunteer by my parents and grandparents. Growing up, I saw them volunteering at events and for programs in the community, and it made it easy to start volunteering.

Which cause are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about getting kids swimming and improving water safety. I volunteered and worked at the H20 Adventure and Fitness centre for four years as a lifeguard and swim instructor and always enjoyed teaching swimming lessons. That led me to join Making Waves in 2012, when I started school at the UBCO. I loved the idea behind the organization and still have fun every weekend teaching kids to swim.

Which organizations do you volunteer for?

I am most involved with SwimAbility, which was formerly known as Making Waves, where I organize our instructors and students as well as teach lessons. Our goal is to provide affordable and accessible one-on-one swim lessons to kids with various physical and mental disabilities. In our current session, we have about 60 kids registered and 25 volunteer instructors. All of our instructors are students at UBCO; they are awesome at making lessons a lot of fun but also productive. 

What does a typical volunteer shift look like?

We have weekly lessons on Saturdays at Parkinson Rec Centre from 12:30 to 2 p.m. I get instructors set up with their kids and help out with lessons. I also teach my own lesson during one of the time slots. Beside the logistics of lessons, the volunteering consists of a lot of laughs, smiles and fun in the pool with our amazing instructors and awesome students!

What impact have you seen volunteers make?

Volunteering in the community has an immeasurable effect. There are so many dedicated and inspiring people running programs that do a lot for the community and the people in it.

Most memorable experience volunteering?

My favourite part is seeing my kids progress. It is very rewarding to see them having a lot of fun and learning at the same time!

How can people get involved?

The only support our organization needs at the moment is help spreading the word to allow us to continue to grow and teach more kids. To learn more about our program, visit our website or email [email protected]

Anyone else you would like to recognize?

Wyatt Slattery has been a huge supporter of this organization. He does everything needed to keep it expanding and able to provide the quality of one-on-one lessons that we do. He works tirelessly replying to emails, co-ordinating instructors, applying for funding, teaching lessons and anything else that is needed. 

– Do you know an inspiring volunteer? Nominate them for a volunteer spotlight.


BrainTrust workshop

BrainTrust Canada is hosting a Compassion Fatigue workshop sponsored by the City of Kelowna on Saturday November 5th at the Ramada Hotel & Conference Centre in Kelowna.  

This workshop is appropriate for anyone caring for or helping others through their profession or personally. 

Compassion Fatigue is a depletion in emotional and physical energy over time when caring for others and can lessen one’s ability to have empathy and compassion.  Sufferers can exhibit symptoms such as stress and anxiety, negativity and even hopelessness which can affect the caregiver and the individual they are caring for.  

Speaker Michael Douglas (MSW; ID) has 40 years’ experience in the Human Service Field, including teaching in the Human Service Work diploma at Okanagan College for many years.  He is certified as a trainer in ‘Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma’ from the Compassion Fatigue Training Institute in Kingston, Ontario.  Michael will combine humour, stories, and audience participation to create learning experiences that inspire and empower people to make changes toward a more rewarding and less stressful work and home life.  

The workshop is $40 and includes lunch – pre-registration is required and available at www.braintrustcanada.com. For more information contact Magda Kapp at [email protected].

Volunteers make difference

Christine McWillis is this week's Volinspire Volunteer of the Week.

What inspired you to volunteer?

As a young person, I was actively involved in the cadet movement. This taught me about the importance of giving time to others to improve our communities. I have always been eager to pitch in where I can.

Which cause are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about programs that involve empowering others to improve their current circumstances. At times, we have all been faced with important decisions that have changed our life journey. Unfortunately, too many people are faced with circumstances that, at the time, are just not manageable alone. I volunteer because I know that I can make a difference by supporting someone through this journey. My interaction with them can be the difference.

Which organization do you most volunteer for?

At present, I volunteer with Volinspire as community blogger. Since I'm new to the community, this allows me to learn about what programs and services are available to residents of Kelowna. I have had the opportunity to interact with so many amazing organizations, including: the Central Okanagan Community Food Bank, Arion Therapeutic Farm, the BC SPCAArthritis Society, and Hands in Service. I also volunteer as a director with the Kelowna Badminton Club and team manager with Kelowna Minor Hockey.

What does a typical volunteer shift look like?

Writing organization profiles allows me to work on my own time. The flexibility makes it easy to fit in a couple of hours per week that works for me and my family.

What impact have you seen volunteers make?

Volunteers are the backbone of the not-for-profit work done in our community. Demands for services are increasing while resources are decreasing. However, what we do not lack is our ability to give and show love to one another. It is the kind hearts of all volunteers in our community that make it an amazing place to live.

Most memorable experience while volunteering?

Having my children volunteer with me is perhaps the greatest gift of all. I feel that nurturing a spirit of giving among our children will help our communities to prosper well into the future.

How can people get involved?

All community organizations need a little bit of something. For me, volunteering is about finding the abundant gifts that are within all of us and giving a little bit of that to others.

Anyone else you would like to recognize?

I would recognize my friends, family and co-workers who have consistently purchased raffle tickets, made donations and accompanied me to community events to put in a shift or two.

– Do you know an inspiring volunteer? Nominate them for a volunteer spotlight.


Endowment grants awarded

The First West Foundation is giving away $115,031 this year to deserving charities in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys from its Valley First Community Endowment.
In all, 15 grants have been awarded to a variety of organizations delivering programs or projects enhancing individual and community resiliency, particularly in the area of hunger and food security issues throughout communities served by Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union.
“There are so many worthy initiatives and organizations and I’ve seen firsthand the difference these grants can make,” says Seline Kutan, executive director of the First West Foundation. “Helping local charities deliver much-needed community programming is very rewarding.”
Kutan says the vision of the First West Foundation is to help create resilient and resourceful communities through effective grant-making. The endowment’s grants are aimed at achieving that vision and enhancing local communities.
Kamloops’ Interior Community Services was one of the charities benefiting from a $10,000 grant this year for their educational garden. The funding will be used for completing an irrigation system, installing shale pathways, as well as adding a garden shed, harvest table, and arbour to the site. The 5,200 square foot garden will be used to deliver programming to approximately 1,200 people annually.
“One of our goals this year was to create an educational garden with the intent of increasing awareness about food security,” says Dawn Christie, community resources manager for Interior Community Services (ICS). “We also want to encourage local, healthy food choices and promote knowledge and skills. Together with the First West Foundation, ICS has been able to meet this goal by diversifying our programming to complete a communal garden.”
Christie says the garden is open to the public and helps individuals gain the necessary skills to choose, grow and prepare healthy food and encourages stronger ties to the local community.
The 15 organizations and initiatives supported by the Valley First Community Endowment this year are:
- Vermilion Forks Elementary School – Afterschool Club
- Hands in Service Canada – Sustainable Nutrition through Social Justice
- Oliver Elementary – Farm 2 School Program
- Cawston Primary School ­– CPS Food Program
- KVR Middle School – Breakfast Program & School Garden
- Food Action Society of the North Okanagan ­– Everybody Cooks
- Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs – Knowledge & Community Kitchens
- Interior Community Services – Educational Garden
- Penticton & District Community Resources Society – Nutritional Enhancement Project for Penticton Childcare
- Canadian Mental Health Association – Meals Matter: Nutritional Resources, Education and Training Program
- JUMP, in association with Royal Inland Hospital Foundation – Community Drop-in Centre & Community Kitchen
- South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation – Patient Care Tower at Penticton Regional Hospital
- Okanagan Similkameen Neurological Society – Valley First Teaching Kitchen at OSNS
- Penticton & District Multicultural Society (South Okanagan Immigrant & Community Services) –  Homework Club
- Whitevalley Community Resource Centre – Breaking Bread: Building Capacity in the Community

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