In honour of National Volunteer Week, we’re continuing to shine a light on some of our amazing volunteers. Niamh and Caoimhe are two wonderful volunteers who have been invaluable to our organization and they both have something very interesting in common, aside from volunteering – read more to find out what! We’re so honoured that they choose to dedicate time to Avalon and are thrilled to be able to have them share a bit about themselves and their volunteer experiences. We hope you enjoy this question-and-answer style blog and learn something new about volunteerism and feel inspired to get involved yourself!
Questions and answers with two Avalon volunteers
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Niamh: I’m 49 years old and from Ireland originally. I work full–time as a data analyst in the mining industry and co–parent my 9-year-old daughter with my ex-husband.
Caoimhe: I’m 38, Irish and landed in Vancouver about a month before lockdown. I found Avalon through an app that directed me to my nearest AA meeting and I’m so delighted it was Avalon. I was immediately welcomed and brought into the fold of women who gathered there, all with the same common purpose: to share their experience, strength and hope and help the still suffering alcoholic. I got sober in my homeland of Ireland and have been blessed to travel extensively over the last few years. I love meeting new people and was really excited to be moving to a vibrant city like Vancouver in 2020. When COVID struck and Avalon closed, I was worried I would lose touch with the women I’d just met and find myself isolated in a new city, in very strange times. I couldn’t have been more wrong. People reached out to me and I took up service when the meetings migrated from in-person to online/on the phone.
How long have you been volunteering with Avalon?
Niamh: I started volunteering at Avalon in about 2015.
Caoimhe: I ended up getting work within 2 months of helping out at Avalon and due to the volunteering times clashing with work, I had to step back. So, it was short but sweet!
What work have you done as a volunteer with Avalon – and elsewhere?
Niamh: Peer Support (12–step) for people who have experienced sexual abuse, with a focus on sexual abuse experienced in childhood.
Caoimhe: [With Avalon] I was running the AA meetings on the phone and over Zoom. In Ireland, I had been volunteering in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, carrying out a social night for the patients on a weekly basis. I also volunteered in a children’s charity ‘Bubblegum’.
What do you like best about volunteering with Avalon?
Niamh: Supporting other women is a natural fit. I find our shared experience can be a powerful support. The Avalon Centre is very cosy. The manager is clearly a walking angel and inspires me to be of service.
Caoimhe: I loved meeting the women in recovery, from all walks of life, each with a different story to tell. The beauty of volunteering is that although you’re helping others, it’s also helping you. Knowing that I’m being of service to others makes me feel good.
How has COVID impacted your volunteer efforts?
Niamh: I’ve switched to participating more in my fellowship. I do phone support and help with their support coordination efforts. That is to say they have a program connecting members as sponsors, recovery buddies etc. and I help them a bit with their email box. I’ve also participated in group safety meetings, but as a novice, I am very much still learning how people can maintain feeling “safe” in meetings.
Caoimhe: I’ve just arrived home in Ireland and there’s so many ways to be of service outside of what most people deem volunteering. I give my time to those who need it. For example, an elderly man close to where I live is alone so I drop into him every Sunday to help bring out bins and sit and chat for an hour. I run AA meetings here 3 times a week and make myself available to anyone who needs a helping hand. Especially the elderly or those who may not be as able as I am, be it gardening or doing grocery shopping – every little bit counts.
If there was something else you could do as a volunteer – with Avalon or otherwise – what would you do and why?
Niamh: If I had more time I would seek out programs that provide simple defined supportive services for people in need. By simple and defined I mean: facilitating safe peer support groups, providing shelter, providing food, providing connection to resources, providing connection to employment/training.
Caoimhe: I’m looking into being a phone volunteer with a charity that offers a 24–hour helpline for those struggling with mental health. COVID has been so difficult for a huge number of people and if I can offer any one my time to listen and be a support to them, I’m eager to do that.
What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Avalon?
Niamh: Do it!
Caoimhe: It’s incredibly worthwhile volunteering in any capacity. So many people need support, and you could be the person they encounter when they’re at their lowest point. Human connection is vital for us humans and to work in a service that feeds the soul!
From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to thank Niamh and Caoimhe for their hard work, dedication, and contribution to bettering Avalon, serving the women at our centres and beyond. Volunteers are truly what keeps our programs running with great success, and we couldn’t do it without you!
If you have been inspired by these questions and answers, please consider joining Avalon as a volunteer. More information and contact details can be found here on our website. We’re always looking for more friendly faces to join us as we seek to grow and be able to help more women in recovery. Volunteering is a beautiful, life-changing act and we encourage you to find ways to give back to your community.
While we appreciate every single individual who contributes their time to Avalon, due to the nature of our society and in respect to anonymity, we are unable to publicly acknowledge all of our amazing volunteers.