April 20th, 2018
Thank you to all our volunteers! #NVW2018
As National Volunteer Week 2018 comes to an end, one volunteer’s story speaks volumes about the impact of volunteering.
First off, a big thank you to all our amazing volunteers!
Here at Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region, we deeply value and appreciate the contributions of our volunteers. Your drive, passion and commitment to giving back to the community is inspiring and we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without you. Thank you for being part of our family and our mission of community, dignity and belonging.
To mark National Volunteer Week 2018, we’re excited to share the story of Brittany Buko, a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University who has both volunteered and worked with Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region. Throughout the week, we’ve been profiling her journey with EAFWR on Facebook and Twitter – from first meeting a Direct Support Person who provided support to her sister and family, to becoming involved with EAFWR and eventually becoming a Direct Support Person. Read her story below.
I have been volunteering and working with Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region since 2015, but have had a connection with the organization since I was a child. Growing up with a sister with a severe developmental disability, I watched my parents’ physical and mental states wither as they struggled to care for my younger sister on their own.
I recall a beacon of light one day when a Direct Support Person (DSP) showed up at our doorstep to help. I was too young to understand exactly what her role was, but I do recall she would come by multiple times a week to hang out with my sister. The few hours a week that my sister was occupied with the DSP, my parents were able to catch up on errands, do chores around the home, and spend time with me at the same time, which was so special for me.
Soon after our first DSP followed many other support workers who came into our home nearly every day to be with my sister. I knew they were there to support her, but I always felt that they were there to support us a family even more so.
Extend-A-Family became a huge part of my childhood, and has helped shape me into the empathetic, caring person I am today, after being constantly influenced by the incredible support individuals we had.
Fast forward to 2015. I’m sitting at my desk in my student house, scrolling through the list of volunteer opportunities available to choose from. I was just three courses away from graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University and one of them required a community volunteer component. I scrolled past “washing dishes”, “sorting clothing bins” and various other roles until an organization stood out immediately among the rest – Extend-A-Family!
My heart skipped a beat as I typed my application out as fast as I could. I was chosen for the position, and thus began my own personal journey with EAFWR.
The volunteer position I chose with EAFWR was with Open Space. This position entailed meeting every Wednesday at a board game café in Waterloo to hangout, chat, enjoy coffee, and play board games in a safe space with an incredible group of individuals. Open Space truly became the highlight of my week, as I looked forward to seeing this group of tight-knit friends and constant new faces.
After having such an incredible experience with EAFWR, I sought out other opportunities while continuing to volunteer with Open Space well after my course ended. I went on to become a Direct Support Person for an amazing teenage boy, a facilitator for a youth group, and a facilitator for the Open Space I loved. I currently still hold the Direct Support Person position, and I couldn’t ever imagine not being connected to Extend-A-Family.
My relationship with Extend-A-Family has changed throughout my life, but it has always been a huge part of myself and my family. To me, this organization is a huge family that supports all of its members through constant kindness, care, and friendship. I cannot say enough good things about my experiences, and I encourage everyone to become connected to this community. This organization is truly a place where volunteers benefit from their involvement just as much as the individuals who utilize Extend-A-Family’s services.
The values are exemplified in every individual who is a part of this community, and I always feel so special and cared for when I reflect on my involvement with Extend-A-Family.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Brittany! And thank you to all the volunteers out there. Know that the small act of volunteering is making a huge difference in the lives of others. You inspire us.