‘People of such heart and soul’

April 10 to 16 is National Volunteer Week and we are sharing stories from just a few of the thousands of volunteers who work with United Way and our agency partners. Thank you to all volunteers, you grow love!

Terumi Kuwada volunteered as an Agency Liaison Volunteer – helping guide the direction and impact of United Way agency partners – for about 13 years, which is the same length of time Bill Norrie was mayor of Winnipeg.

The comparison is a fitting one. Bill Norrie was the person who nominated Terumi to join United Way’s Board of Trustees in 2002, sparking her long career as a United Way volunteer.

“He was just such a community leader and a mayor who got engaged with everybody… just such a gentle, caring, and respectful individual,” says Terumi of the late mayor, who twice volunteered as a United Way Campaign Chair.

Terumi Kuwada recently retired from her volunteer work with United Way which began in 2002.

Terumi Kuwada recently retired from her volunteer work with United Way which began in 2002.

Terumi’s volunteer career with United Way ended joyfully last week. She has decided to spend more time with her family and husband, who himself just retired. Over the last 25 years Terumi estimates she has served voluntarily for as many as eight not-for-profits at any given time.

“United Way was the longest, second being the Manitoba Japanese-Canadian Citizens Association (now the Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba).”

Terumi was on United Way’s board for three years, and did a similar stint volunteering on the Community Investment Committee.

Her career in social work gave her a strong foundation for success as an Agency Liaison Volunteer (ALV), where she helped United Way agency partners operate effectively to serve Winnipeggers.

“As an ALV we act as collaborators with the agencies to say, ‘How can we best make a difference in our community, together?’”

The relationships she built with people working on the front-lines of United Way agencies are the most treasured memories she will carry with her, Terumi said.

“As a volunteer I’ve had so many gifts from people who have opened up their thoughts and feelings about their work and their passion about their work…sharing why they do what they do, and you realize, my goodness, these are people of such heart and soul…this city is really fortunate to have these people.”

Terumi said she will miss being an ALV for United Way. It kept her, “connected to people who were doing amazing work for the community.”

The act of volunteering is full of rewards for the giver, she said, and for our shared society.

“I think we all need to give. We need to give back. We’re so fortunate in Canada to have the kind of life that we have, and I see volunteering as a way to give back to a society that we’re very fortunate to belong to.”

Mom beats isolation through volunteering at her neighbourhood family centre.

April 10 to 16 is National Volunteer Week and we are sharing stories from just a few of the thousands of volunteers who work with United Way and our agency partners. Thank you to all volunteers, you grow love!

Manilyn Janzen has only missed two volunteer shifts at the Blake Gardens Resource Centre Fruit and Veggie Market in the past year.

One of those was five days after her son Lukas was born, but she still showed up to show him off to her friends and neighbours.

Manilyn Janzen, with 5-day-old Lukas, has gained skills and left isolation behind through her volunteer work.

Manilyn Janzen, with 5-day-old Lukas, has gained skills and left isolation behind through her volunteer work.

“I always came to the resource centre for the Fruit & Veggie Market anyway, and one day they needed help,” said Manilyn of how she started volunteering.

The volunteer work helped the 26-year-old single mom of (now) two boys get out of her apartment in the Blake Gardens housing complex and meet people.

“I was isolated. Before I did not know anyone after a year of living here, and now everyone is like, ‘hi Manilyn.’”

Caprice Kehler, community facilitator at NorWest Co-op Community Health which operates the resource centre, says about 30 people take advantage of the market each week. She said the market requires three volunteers and one staff member to operate.

NorWest, a United Way agency partner, is embracing volunteerism and what it means to the community.

“Through United Way we now have a volunteer training program, and since it started I’d say we now have about eight really dedicated volunteers at Blake Gardens,” said Caprice.

Manilyn is an example of how volunteering can impact a person’s life in positive ways, Caprice said.

“I’ve seen Manilyn’s self-confidence increase and her isolation decrease. And she’s a very hard worker – she could run that market by herself.”

Manilyn says she has also gained many useful skills, making her more valuable to employers.

“If you have volunteering on your resume it helps you. People who are hiring, they like to see that you are not lazy – that you like working.”

Volunteering ‘the biggest joy’

April 10 to 16 is National Volunteer Week and we are sharing stories from just a few of the thousands of volunteers who work with United Way and our agency partners. Thank you to all volunteers, you grow love!

A few years ago Puneet Pannu found her way out of an abusive marriage with two children and no income. She drew strength from her dad and her faith, and continues to look for ways to illuminate her path.

“Everybody is going through some kind of a mess, and sometimes you don’t know how to go towards a positive direction.”

A positive direction for Puneet was revealed soon after she arrived in Winnipeg from her home in New Delhi, India, in January to spend time with her now adult children who attend school here.

Puneet Pannu at United Way, where she began volunteering in February.

Puneet Pannu at United Way, where she began volunteering in February.

She began volunteering for United Way Winnipeg – helping out the Community Involvement team – as well as at United Way agency partner Opportunities for Employment and the Global Welcome Centre, where she teaches English to immigrants. She has also done her volunteer orientation at Siloam Mission and plans to help with a United Way Living on the Edge poverty simulation to educate people about the challenge of living on a low income.

“It’s emotionally fulfilling,” she says of being a volunteer.

“If you’re feeling low it fills you up, and for somebody to appreciate you is the biggest joy.”

Puneet speaks of finding balance – feeling herself becoming more stable and accepted – through her volunteerism.

“You all are not realizing how you are making me feel…I’m actually feeling more worthy of myself.”

The act of volunteering – of helping others become better – is transformative, Puneet says.

“You will bloom if you help others to bloom.”

She is “meeting people, learning new stuff, and learning about your culture,” which is helping her feel independent and “like I’m standing on my own feet.”

When asked if she’d like to share her thoughts about volunteering Puneet phoned her sister in New Delhi.

“I said to her, ‘can you imagine, me, in a story. Somebody wants to write a story about me. Again, you make me feel worthwhile.”

Puneet says she has learned to “get up after every fall,” and keep facing that positive direction.

“Volunteering is not a job, it’s a journey within.”

Volunteer helps shed light on poverty

April 10 to 16 is National Volunteer Week and we are sharing stories from just a few of the thousands of volunteers who work with United Way and our agency partners. Thank you to all volunteers, you grow love!

Ann Reichert retired last June after a 44-year nursing career, and just two weeks later she was on the hunt for things to fill her time when a friend invited her to volunteer at a United Way Living on the Edge (LOTE) poverty simulation.

“I really had fun that day. I ran the pawn shop, and had loads of fun with the participants.”

The participants were from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba – and that day Ann helped give them a glimpse into the challenges of living in poverty.

Ann Reichert has volunteered at more than a dozen United Way Living on the Edge poverty simulations.

Ann Reichert has volunteered at more than a dozen United Way Living on the Edge poverty simulations.

A LOTE poverty simulation gives participants a better understanding of what life is like for someone living in poverty as they assume simulated roles within households and navigate the challenges of daily life for four 15-minute weeks.

“I think everyone should do it,” says Ann.

“Seeing how hard it can be to survive. When you don’t have money for the bus to go cash a cheque or pay a bill it really becomes clear – it’s a new perspective.”

Ann has seen a lot of poverty through her healthcare career and in her world travels. She says a poverty simulation provides “a new dimension” to understanding poverty that she has not experienced in any other way.

About 20 people like Ann volunteer at each poverty simulation bringing to life the utilities, social services, schools, police, medical centre and other agencies that a person on a low-income may have to deal with.

After the simulation a debriefing session lets people reflect on the experience they just shared. Ann has volunteered at more than a dozen simulations and says every group has had at least one participant who talked about their own experience of poverty and hardship.

“Some mentioned how they got help from a United Way agency.”

Ann grew up on a farm where her parents taught her that her “role includes helping others.”

Besides volunteering with LOTE she helps at an elementary school breakfast program. A few years ago she was involved in medical missions to the Philippines and Nicaragua.

She sees volunteer work as an extension of her career in healthcare and her desire to reach out and connect with people.

“Nursing always gave me an opportunity to give.”

If you would like to volunteer for or participate in a United Way LOTE poverty simulation contact Mariah Baldwin at 204-924-4264 or email mbaldwin@unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca

Learn more and see a video about LOTE poverty simulations online.