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janet's story

After working as a Registered Nurse for almost 40 years, Janet is now supporting her community by volunteering at Choices for Youth (CFY), with our Outreach and Youth Engagement (OYE) Program. Janet helps out in the kitchen, assisting Chef Lois in preparing nutritious meals for young people accessing drop-in services at our integrated youth services centre.

“I was looking for something to do because I wanted to be one of those people who didn’t just talk about it, but who did it.”

Janet’s connection with CFY runs deeper than volunteering – her daughter Jenna works with CFY. Prior to starting in the kitchen, Janet had heard stories from Jenna about the kind of work she does at CFY. Nevertheless, experiencing it for herself was enlightening.

“When I first came down to Outreach…I was totally ignorant. I never knew what was going on in the city I grew up in all my life. I had no idea, the severity of the homelessness and people being hungry. It was eye-opening.”

Seeing the level of need that young people have and the challenges they face every day made a strong impression on Janet; She saw the kindness that the OYE team shows to young people who visit the centre for support. Janet is inspired to do the same during her time as a volunteer.

“Watching the Outreach team care for people who may not have anyone else to care for them was very uplifting. The kindness really stands out. You get to know some of the youth, the faces, and you can talk to them. Just a little bit of kindness goes a long way.”

Janet felt the kindness of the OYE community herself when she first started volunteering.

“From the day I came in, everyone that crossed through the kitchen, everyone who I met, was so welcoming and kind and made me feel like I was doing the most impactful job in the building. It makes you feel good.”

Beyond the kindness shown by OYE team members, youth, and volunteers, Janet has had the opportunity to build real relationships with the community of folks who pass through OYE.

“I’ve developed a nice relationship with the people who I work with every Thursday when I come to Outreach. Everyone supports one another, and I try to do that in turn too. If someone is having a bad day, there’s always someone to talk to.”

Being part of a community that supports one another is a powerful thing. CFY’s OYE team is fostering just that – community for young people, team members, and volunteers. Just being in that supportive environment inspires Janet. She has learned much from her time volunteering with the OYE team and tries to share her new perspective with others.

“As a population, we should all try to take care of our most vulnerable. I feel like CFY is doing an amazing job at that. We all wish there was more money, there was more housing, there was better this and better that. But there isn’t right now. CFY does great work and makes the best of what they have. It’s been very humbling for me to see how it works and to be educated. I’m an educated person, but I wasn’t educated in this part of our population. It has been very enlightening and I’m trying to educate my co-workers about all this now too.”

As someone with a wealth of experience in the healthcare field, Janet knows the limitations of the existing healthcare system and the value of OYE’s low-barrier, drop-in model.​

“The drop-in aspect is very important. You need to get people when they need the help. If you don’t seize that opportunity, they may not be back. It’s especially important for the youth population and for vulnerable people. It’s unfortunate that more of these services aren’t available.”

Janet has learned a lot from her time as a volunteer with the OYE program and has undergone much personal growth from her experience. She believes that everyone who has the time would see similar benefits from volunteering.

“A small amount of your time makes such a big difference. It’s not that much time and you get so much more out of it than you give. It’s so important to support the supporters. They give their hearts and souls.”

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