Revitalizing Our Volunteer Department ​

Revitalizing Our Volunteer Department

#VolunteerAppreciationWeek2022

In 2021, we initiated an Annual Campaign to help raise the necessary funds to revitalize five areas of Chai Lifeline Canada. Thanks to the generosity of our community, the Annual Campaign successfully raised enough to begin this process, starting with our Volunteer Department. 

With a dedicated network of more than 600 volunteers, our volunteer department is the backbone of Chai Lifeline Canada. Whether it be through cooking and delivering meals, offering rides to school and appointments, or providing tutoring and friendship, our volunteer department ensures that every member of every Chai Lifeline Canada family is supported.

It is also important that our volunteers are supported as well. They set aside time in their busy week to give back, and we want to show them that they are appreciated. The volunteer department plans on doing that by holding monthly events for the volunteers. For example, we were able to hold two ice skating events – for our male and female volunteers –  which they loved! It is also Chai Lifeline Canada’s plan to initiate a volunteer incentive program where a volunteer of the week will receive a gift for their hard work and dedication. To add to this, the plan is to send our top volunteers’ gifts throughout the year, coinciding with holidays such as Purim, Mother’s Day, etc. Although the volunteer department has been doing so much amazing work, the BIGGEST news coming out of their office, is the brand new raffle that will be launched with in the coming months. Volunteers will be entered into a bi-weekly draw where they will be able to win prizes including gift cards and tickets local entertainment and sporting events. Each volunteer will receive entries based on the number of projects they do to support Chai Lifeline Canada. The more they volunteer, the more entries they receive, and the more chances they will have to win.

Another important project of the volunteer department is the Big Sibling program. The Big Sibling program pairs up a Chai Lifeline Canada volunteer with a child living with illness, or their sibling, or a child of a parent who is unwell or has passed. Chai Big Siblings spend an average of one hour a week with their little siblings and have a chance to really be a positive influence in their little sibling’s life. With funds raised from the Annual Campaign, the volunteer department plans to organize two events each month for the big siblings to partake in along with their little siblings. Events might include sledding and skating in the winter, or indoors activities such as bowling and a trampoline park. We know that moments between Chai big and little siblings are special, so we want to help them make memories that will last forever.

Chai Lifeline Canada volunteers have a myriad of backgrounds which come in handy when volunteering in various roles. However, we still think it is important for them to be educated on best practices when dealing with families that are in a medical crisis, and Chai Lifeline is planning to implement a series of classes. Topics would include rapport-building, traumatic medical stress, supporting siblings, talking with children about illness and death, expressing empathy and support, anticipatory grief, supporting bereaved children and traumatic grief. With our volunteers being educated on these topics, it will allow for more comfortable interactions and fewer potentially awkward moments.

When parents are going through a distressing time, it can be tough for them to manage all their responsibilities, including taking care of their children, as well as getting some rest. To combat this and give parents some time for themselves, the volunteer department has opened the Chai Lifeline Toronto office drop-in room, which is run by volunteers. The drop-in room is open on Sundays, providing parents the opportunity to drop off their children for two hours to play, do arts & crafts and see other children. It is a win-win for both sides—kids get to enjoy themselves in a new space and parents get some time to do what they need to do.

The final area of the volunteer department that the annual Campaign has revitalized is staff. We were able to hire two new incredible staff members to help run the department in Toronto. Although Bryan Strasberg and Yonit Rothenstein have only recently joined the Chai Lifeline Canada team, they are already making their mark and we are so excited to see their work in the department!

When asked their thoughts about working in the volunteer department, Bryan shares that “it’s amazing working with such giving and caring people, many of whom are humble and choose to remain anonymous. You get the true feeling and meaning of chesed working with the volunteers of Chai Lifeline Canada.”

For Yonit, being part of the volunteer team at Chai Lifeline Canada is deeply rewarding. “It is spectacular to see the magnanimous nature and the spectrum of people who volunteer. For example, when I was trying to service a family who needed daily assistance, in a more remote area of the city, I reached out to various synagogues. I was amazed at the response I received and how fully we were able to help the family.”

With all these new plans and programs, 2022 is shaping up to be a great year for the volunteer department. We are excited and hope you are too! 

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