In late April, Canada celebrated National Volunteer Week.
This year’s theme was: Volunteering is Empathy in Action.
“Volunteers bring heart to Canada’s communities, affirming the strong connection between volunteerism and empathy. This profoundly human connection is at the heart of healthier individuals and stronger communities. The empathy, compassion and generosity of volunteers creates connected communities and builds a stronger Canada.” (NVW2022>nv volunteer.ca)
Yes, volunteers help keep this weary world spinning and can sometimes be found doing intriguing things.
Below are two encounters with dedicated folks choosing to make a difference.
REPAIR, REFURBISH, REJOICE
On a cold February morning, when I exclaimed, “Enough, no more!”
We found the items, shook off the dust and carried them out the door.
The clock, the mixer and three kitchen stools had all seen better days,
So we drove through town to the Senior’s Centre to find the Repair Café.
It was the first time we had visited, and folks warmly ushered us in
We looked around at the busy tables and couldn’t remove our grins.
All ages of folks were working and the buzz in the room was strong,
Volunteering their time and skills, to repair the broken and worn.
Dave repaired my mixer; in minutes it was working again,
Then Trevor fixed the worn out clock; soon we heard its ticking refrain.
Others began reupholstering the worn out kitchen stools,
A screwdriver, staple gun and friendly smiles; those were the needed tools.
Then, as each repair was completed, a bell rang, sounding the news,
Cheers and applause filled the air, chasing away the winter blues.
They did not ask for money; folks simply wanted to do their part,
Helping by sharing their talents and time, from their open and generous hearts.
I had hoped to eventually do the small projects myself, but an inability to figure out how and where to begin had left them unusable and gathering dust.
In contrast, the local Repair Café began five years ago, thanks to Leanne Koehn, who does community engagement for Ridge Meadows Recycling Society. She had heard about the Repair Cafés started by Martine Postma in the Netherlands (https://www.repaircafe.org/en/) and knew this concept needed to expand locally.
With a strong desire to help her community plus keep things out of the landfill, and along with some seed money from a federal New Horizons for Seniors grant, the idea took wing.
Who would have known five years later, more than a dozen folks of all ages would still be willing to give up a little time once a month to achieve this ever growing reality.
The pandemic had temporarily halted things, but the Repair Café was back, in full operation.
Folks who were willing to tinker, upholster, fix legs of chairs, darn socks, sew a ripped sleeve, fix a bike, electronics, jewellery etc. continued to amaze and help others as they gave up a few hours once a month.
It took less than twenty minutes to repair both the clock and the hand mixer and bring them back to perfect working order. It took a little longer to reupholster the stools and also a worn out rocking chair seat cushion. I needed person-power to remove the stool legs and to stretch the fabric I’d brought for all of the coverings.
Younger family members of two of the volunteers also tried their hand using the staple gun. Within a short time, the cushion cover and the three stools were finished and looked awesome!
The energy and time given by the kind-hearted and talented volunteers ranging from nine to seniors galvanized what community spirit is about!
Repair Cafés are springing up across Canada and throughout the world, all with a common theme of repairing and refurbishing. There isn’t a cost for any of the work, but a small donation box sits by the door with proceeds going towards future events and materials.
Many are also joining the ”Right to Repair’ movement, helping to ensure manufacturers ethically produce their wares by giving their products a longer life thereby reducing waste. And if these items eventually need repair, they can be done at home or by kind-hearted volunteers offering a few hours once a month, enriching their community and also protecting this tiny blue dot we all share.
WHO KNOWS WHAT LURKS IN DEEP WATERS?
More recently, my daughter and I were taking a leisurely spring stroll through a local provincial park. With cameras in hand, we were enthralled as we photographed the new dogwood blossoms, the calm, glass-like lake, the multi layers of grey in the sky and the distant snow covered mountains.
Stepping away from busy schedules and commitments and stepping into the beauty of the park’s natural tranquility were what we needed.
As we got closer to the lakeshore, we appreciated the vast quietness and breathed in the fresh, moist early morning air.
While photographing the snow-laden mountains painted on the far horizon, we couldn’t help but be amazed at the stillness of the lake, now only metres in front of us. In a few short months, it’d be filled with new and returning swimmers, paddleboarders, canoeists, kayakers, fishers, ski-jetters and boaters.
But for now, we savoured these calmer times as we listened to the migratory and resident birds calling from the trees and surrounding the shoreline. Again, we deeply breathed in the serenity of the early morning, filling our lungs and our hearts.
As we continued to gaze across the serene lake water, we were shocked to see a human head surface, then another and then a third popped up, completely out of nowhere!
It had been far too cold for swimmers plus we hadn’t seen anyone enter or in the water.
They gazed around then slowly made their way to the water’s edge. They wore complete scuba gear and one was carrying a bulging bag filled with items they’d gathered. As they exited the lake, we stood in awe! Not once in the previous 40 years had we ever seen scuba divers in these waters.
We wondered what could have brought them there; perhaps a search party or maybe geocaching?
Yes, they were in fact searching, but for items tossed or lost in the lake. One Sunday a month, these divers cleaned lakes. The volunteers were providing regular underwater cleanup of tossed and often dangerous waste items as well as accidental droppings.
They told us about the many things they’d found over the years. Glowsticks, golf and tennis balls, cellphones, sunglasses, umbrellas, two boat engines, paddles, bottles, cans, broken glass, a full sized wooden boat, fishing gear and fish netting were some of the findings on their monthly expeditions. We also heard the story about one of the divers getting caught in some fishnet as she entered the water. As her partner untangled her, they noticed a young fish also caught in the netting and were thankfully able to release it as well.
After a brief chat, we walked away grateful and inspired by these and the other incredible volunteers who willingly give their time, energy and talent to improve the safety and wellbeing of unbeknownst water enthusiasts as well as all life below the surface.
Thanks, Ocean Pro Divers for the great work you do behind the scenes and in our treasured lakes!
To the countless folks carrying the many torches and inspiring others to do the same, heartfelt respect and appreciation for all you’ve done and continue to do to make this world a cleaner, safer and healthier home!