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Community service committee monthly blog: Reflections on May & June events

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

Cat Shelter Event

By Wali Zia

It’s always a bittersweet moment when you say goodbye to a friend. You want them to be happy, to be successful, to enjoy their new, better life. At the same time, you don’t want them to leave. It’s pretty much the same for me at the AVA cat shelter that I volunteer at. As an animal lover, I fall in love with every single cat that I meet, and they automatically become my best friends. Even though I want them to get adopted and have a happily ever after, as happy as I am for them, there is still a tiny part of me that gets sad that they are leaving. This makes the National Adoption Weekend (NAW), that happens every few months, particularly hard for me. Yet, it is always a successful event for the shelter and for almost every single cat and kitten we have.

The AVA Cat shelter at the Stockyard’s village is one of the biggest AVA centers in Toronto and has one of the highest turnovers of all cat shelters in the area. In February, they had over 30 cats adopted in 1 week.

For the NAW that took place in May, they had 15 cats. It is quite possibly the lowest number ever since I started volunteering there. It was great that there were quite few cats that needed adopting, but it just meant that I would be losing my friends faster than I would have expected. It made me quite sad just thinking about it, hence, I was not able to bring myself to go and volunteer during this weekend. However, I did connect my team members from Rotaract with the event organizers in order to provide them with any and all assistance that they might need from me.

I was informed that the event was a great success. All the cats that needed to be adopted, were adopted. Even though the event generally runs till Sunday night, it was mostly rapped up by Saturday night.

The NAW is a relatively consistent event that takes place numerous times over the year. It is definitely something we all should participate in, at least once. You learn so much about the needs of some of the creatures that share this planet with us and the loving, caring people that are willing to adopt them into their forever homes.

Fred Victor Walk | June 7 By Lara Valles

Fred Walks is a fundraiser where participants walk 7.5km visiting Fred Victor sites to learn about homelessness and poverty within Toronto. I helped organize the Rotaract Toronto team. For me, it was a humbling and eye-opening experience.

When you encounter visible poverty, it is impossible to know the stories and systemic barriers that exist until you make a conscious effort to educate yourself. Fred Walks provided such an opportunity to learn about both the visible and invisible poverty that affects families, refugees, adults and seniors. Throughout the five hour tour of several Fred Victor sites, you are guided by a staff member who answer your questions based on their personal experiences and also take you around the city to various shelters to receive presentations from site managers, case workers, nurses and other front line staff whose work is honestly inspiring. You can tell that all of them are compassionate and dedicated to helping people without judgement. Throughout all of their stories a similar theme presented itself; there needs to be more awareness.

Every person’s story is completely unique and as such, people who experience poverty and homelessness require individualized care to heal and overcome their trauma. This challenges social workers to search for such specific services and programs; even if you have two people who experienced similar traumas that does not mean they both need the same treatment. If we simply leave people in shelters or treat them as a number rather than as a person, it only compounds the trauma they experienced, thus making them more dependent on a broken system. We learned that people who are homeless are sometimes just searching for a community where they know people care about them and that there needs to be more mental health services. Having the opportunity to donate to an organization that truly does care for those in our community who are the most vulnerable is rewarding and I will certainly be participating in this event next year.

Fort York Food Bank | May 19

By Berk

On May 19, 2019, our Rotaract team went to the Fort York Food Bank to connect with its visitors and support the Food bank before and during the operating hours. While the first team focused on cooking meals in the morning during their shift, we concentrated on serving the food and cleaning the equipment. What was stunning to see is that Errol, the chef volunteering at the food bank, cooked great meals of amazing quality. We were able to serve spaghetti with delicious beef sauce; various types of vegetables, such as corn, carrots, and peas; a beautiful Mediterranean-style salad and chicken nuggets.

Fort York Food Bank was the first community service activity of Rotaract Club of Toronto I took part in. I have to say that it was a great way to familiarize myself with Rotaract as it provided an opportunity to see the impact of the effort all Rotaractors put into touching people’s lives firsthand through people’s smiles as we were serving them the food. Many members and candidates alike will find this experience particularly inspiring as it allows to establish a closer connection with fellow Rotaractors and have a direct and immediate impact on the life of someone. We left the event fulfilled, as we saw many sincere smiles and words of gratitude.

After we wrapped up the day, our team headed to the local coffee shop at the Kensington market. We had a lovely chance to reflect on our experience, chat about the future of the club as it transitions into a new year, and go over our common interests. The Fort York Food Bank was the type of experience that reminded me of a plain and easy way to spend my day enjoying what I like to do, connect with new people, and make a direct impact on someone's life.

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