Tag Archives: Volunteer

World YWCA Day

Today is World YWCA Day. The theme for World YWCA Day is Rise Up! Support and Invest in Young Women’s Rights. It’s one day where we can celebrate our accomplishments. It’s also National Volunteer Week. Immediately, we thought of our Board President Jennifer Bonato. She is the perfect example of rising up.

Jennifer speaking at our Annual General Meeting

Jennifer is a life-long Niagara resident who is passionate about social justice-based advocacy – which is why the YWCA has been a great fit for her. With an academic history grounded in women’s and gender studies and feminist theory, Jennifer actively promotes the use of one’s sociological imagination in the every day.

Jennifer completed a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 2013, and a Graduate Certificate in Public Relations in 2014. In 2016, Jennifer received her Master of Arts in Critical Sociology. Jennifer’s Graduate research explores the social and political aspects of biotechnology in agriculture, and was presented at the International Rural Sociology Association’s 2016 World Congress.

She’s taking on more of a role this year as well becoming Co-Committee Chair of the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women. What does this mean? Along with Julie Rorison another board member and influential female within the community who rises up constantly, they will ensure that this Niagara Leadership Summit for Women will be the best one yet.

Her impact doesn’t stop there. Jennifer wanted to create more awareness in high schools about the growing problem of homelessness in Niagara. But she wanted to do something that would be fun for the students to participate in to ensure that they students actually came out. This is how our Hockey Helping Homes event began.

We are extremely grateful and lucky that Jennifer chooses to dedicate her time to our organization, furthering our mission of empowering women.

Thank you Jennifer for all you do!

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @jenniferbonato

Spotlight: Teresa

This week for Volunteer Appreciation Month, the YWCA would like to spotlight Teresa Butson. Teresa has joined the YWCA in October of 2016 after have moving to St. Catharines following her retirement. While looking for more opportunities to help the community, Teresa explained that the YWCA seemed to jump up at her.  Why did she choose the YWCA you ask? 

“I wanted to find a place to volunteer somewhere that allowed me to help others but also helped me grow as a person and as part of the community. It is important to me that I feel like I am contributing every day, even just a little. Because I am able to accomplish all of these things at the YWCA, it is truly gratifying.”

When asked what her favourite volunteer experience has been with the YWCA, Teresa revealed that she could not pick just one experience. “The YWCA provides a very warm, welcoming, and family-like environment,” Teresa explains, “it’s nice to see the friendliness between staff, volunteers, you can tell everyone that is here, wants to be. For this reason I can’t pick just one experience to call my favourite, every day here is a good day.”

Volunteerism promotes lots of excellent values. The most valuable takeaway Teresa has learned through volunteering has been that; “You must be willing to give and take in order for your experience to be mutually rewarding.” Teresa wishes to continue to learn about the YWCA, how it supports the community and what more she can do in order to support them.

Although Teresa has said she does not feel as though she needs anything special or formal in regards to feeling appreciated, she delights in watching the process of women and families becoming independent and “learning to stand on their own two feet”. When speaking of new potential volunteers, Teresa believes it is important to have an open mind in terms of learning about others, how they live, and their stories. She also mentions that it is okay to ask questions as we should not assume that we will always have the answer. Lastly, we asked Teresa how she feels women should be empowering one another. With a warm smile, said

“I believe that it is all of our responsibility to share knowledge with each other.Even more so at my age, in having experience in different areas of my life, I believe I have a duty to share my stories and help support those who need it. By doing this, I, along with others can help to build a happy and healthy community.”

Thanks Teresa for all you do, every week! ~ YW Staff

Question of the Month: How has someone appreciated you that has made it memorable?

How has someone appreciated you that has made it memorable?

Dana

I was helping a wonderful group of people organize a third-party event to raise money for a cause that was very special to them. I worked at the organization, so of course helping them was part of my job. They were extremely proactive, organized, and optimistic about the event, they basically had everything planned and ready to go. I was just needed for a few small things, and to help promote the event.

The event came and went, and it was a great success. I was so happy to have had the chance to meet the organizers and help them achieve their goal. About a week after the event, I got a card in the mail from the organizers. It was just a sweet and simple thank you card with some sweet messages. It made me so happy; I think I usually expect an informal thank you e-mail or nothing at all (and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that!), but to get an actual card with some heartfelt messages was very special. It was extremely special because I didn’t do a whole lot, but I was there for them if they needed anything. It was nice to know they were thinking about me and wanted to appreciate me.

I could tell how proud they were of themselves for successfully organizing such an amazing fundraiser. I was happy to be included in their success and I still have the thank you card a year later. It makes me smile every time I look at it on my bulletin board. It’s funny actually, because I have never been a big fan of cards (holiday, greeting, thank you, etc.) for some reason. I usually make my own cards and write my own special message to my friend or family member. But, I actually have a box of cards that other people have given or sent me over the years, and I keep them because of the special message that is in them. I also have kept some love notes that my boyfriend gave me when we were first dating. They are on scrap pieces of paper, only a few words or sentences, but I keep them in my wallet and always look at them for a cheer me up.

That actually made me think about the way I show appreciation to others (maybe I shouldn’t be so against greeting cards!). Maybe I should take some time to make my “thank yous” to others a little more memorable. I had a friend help me with my taxes; I felt like I was messaging her non-stop with questions and help. She never once acted annoyed and always stopped what she was doing to help me. I knew she was a Starbucks lover, so I sent her an e-gift card early in the morning so she could use it on her way to work. She was so very happy that I sent her a little gift with a nice message in it. I felt good about making her feel good!

Now and Then

Today I drive a BMW.
Today I live in a 4 bedroom house of my own. 
Today I wear diamonds and jewels and dine in 4 star restaurants.
But it wasn’t always this way.

When I was 14 my mother ran away with my father’s best friend. He wanted my mother, not us 3 kids. So, for the next 2 years he made my life unbearable. He constantly accused me of being up to no good and told me I was worthless. When I turned 15, I got a social worker through my guidance counselor at school and made plans to leave my dysfunctional family.

The week after I turned 16, I committed myself to the Niagara Youth Centre in Welland. Everyone there were runaways, abandoned, or there by court order. I had never see anything like that before. So many damaged children. Most of them through no fault of their own. Most of the girls had been molested as young children and wore their scars like a badge of honour. It was the first time I was ever asked to use Kwellada to delouse. It was a degrading, humiliating experience; one I will never forget. I can still feel the sting in my nostrils and the burn on my skin.

I lived there for 3 weeks before I ran away with a girl named Mary to Toronto. The first night in Toronto we slept in a cemetery. We had $11.00 between us. The next day we went to the Salvation Army who referred us to a Womans Shelter. Again, I had to do the delousing procedure. I slept in a room with 3 other beds. My room and board was $4.00/day and I had rotating chores to do. I got a temporary job at the Schneiders factory and was able to take care of my rent and my basic needs.

Life in a shelter is not guaranteed and every 30 days you had to look for new housing. There was one night I couldn’t find a shelter so I sat in the lobby of the police station all night. I was told I had to leave at 7 in the morning. I then found my way to the Native Womens Centre in Hamilton and was humbled by how kind these women were to me.

When my time was up I called my father, collect-call from a bus station in Hamilton and begged him to let me and my friend come stay with him in his 2 bedroom apartment. He said I would have to return to his church. I told him I didn’t believe in his religious ideas. He hung up on me. It was February and storming outside. We slept in the bus terminal that night. The next morning we hitchhiked to Toronto and found a new co-ed youth shelter to reside in. I was so grateful the workers in the shelter. They brought me in, washed my clothes and provided a hot shower, followed by a hot meal. They empowered me to believe in myself. They gave me the tools to become independent.

I went back to school and got a job. I eventually got my own apartment and continued to upgrade my education.

Today I am a Certified Personal Support Worker, Dietary Aide, and a Medical Office Assistant.

I believe in giving back and I have always given donations over the years to various shelters. I want people to know that there is hope for everyone. I want women to believe in themselves and know that no matter how desperate times can be, things can always improve. I had to learn to believe in myself and treat myself with respect and dignity in order for others to do the same. I have also learned that not all men are evil and to trust myself before anyone else.

I will never forget the compassion and empathy showed to me during my darkest hours. I will spend the rest of my life giving back to my community in any way I can.

Written by a YW volunteer.