This is a true story from one of the volunteers at the Wednesday Canteen. It is a somewhat longer than your average blog post but well worth the read!
A NEIGHBOUR’S HOPE
I have been volunteering at the Edmonton Do Likewise Society (EDLS) for several months now.
I was first introduced to the existence of the Wednesday evening canteen by a friend and co-worker.
My initial incentive for volunteering was to “do something good for others” like the teaching of the Good Samaritan. I wanted to give back to the community and do something that mattered. I felt nervous and dejected after the first few evenings. There seemed like so many hurt and helpless people. Thoughts like “This is hopeless” and “Why bother?” raced through my mind. I remained diligent and continued to volunteer. As I began to learn our visitor’s names and converse with them, I started to look forward to Wednesday evenings. I saw that a difference was being made and it made me feel more positive about volunteering.
There were two gentlemen in particular who really touched my heart and mind. They were living in a makeshift camp in the Millcreek ravine. They invited me to visit their camp and over time, we built a relationship and they began sharing more about their lives with me. Their stories were incredible. They were stories of pain, loss, hardship and survival. We talked about their needs and wishes. Instead of focusing on the cause for their need, I focused on the need itself. Through the generosity of friends and family, I was able to help provide them with a propane stove and military survival sleeping bags. They started communication with a gentleman from Boyle Street, another community service that helps people living in poverty . This gentleman got them started with proceedings to attempt to provide them with housing. Through this process, I saw such a difference in my two new friends. They finally had some comfort and hope. They were happier and they started to open up to me even more about their situation. When they got the news that they were getting apartments it changed all of our lives. My friends had something to look forward to and I saw that there were services in place to help people in need. Even though it took about 3 weeks longer than anticipated, they finally got housing provided for them. During those 3 weeks of waiting, they still had hope and a vision of being “inside”.
My friends are living in apartments now. When I asked them the best thing about having a home the first thing they expressed was, “Being able to lock the door and not worry”. They also said, “Not sleeping on the cold slab of concrete”. I can’t imagine the fear and anxiety they experienced while living on the street. However it brings me great joy and peace to know that my friends have a place to call home. I have had the privilege of visiting them a few times. A group of us from EDLS were invited over and had lunch with them and celebrated their new apartments. I even had the honour of having them prepare Easter dinner for me at their new home. I have an open invitation and will continue to visit my friends.
I feel this experience exemplifies how EDLS and the Neighbour Centre can provide space and a place of connection for neighbours to help neighbours. As a volunteer I have gained more compassion, understanding and thankfulness for what I have. One important lesson I have learned about giving and volunteering is that the person donating their time and service gains as much if not more happiness and satisfaction than the person receiving their assistance. I look forward to continuing my involvement with the Neighbour Centre. The word HOPE has a whole new meaning for me now. If a person has HOPE, no matter what is going on around them, they can persevere.