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Jo, Volunteer Coordinator, multi service agency, southern Ontario region

Jo, Volunteer Coordinator, multi service agency, southern Ontario region

A Volunteer coordinator plans and supports the volunteer services of the agency as a whole. We interview new volunteers and set up an orientation meeting. We talk about mental health in the orientation, volunteers understand and hopefully are aware of their own mental health. For our programming, we emphasize capacity building. We look at each individual's strength one brings in. Some volunteers have different potentials and skill sets and we identify their strength with them. Volunteers are provided with mental health training and then they work together as a team in community education as well as implementing events. We work with volunteers so that they understand the mental health services available and promote acceptance of mental illness in our multicultural communities.

I think basically everyone needs to be understood. For mental health consumers, they often feel isolated and scared as sometimes their symptoms might affect them. They probably feel more comfortable and being accepted when they can talk to workers and volunteers alike who know their culture and converse in their language. I think having mental illness is a barrier already and with cultural and language barrier, it certainly will make it harder for consumers to access to services.

I think from working in mental health agency, I understand better how mental illness can affect our lives. I see the hardship consumers go through. I learn to see each individual is unique and they have their own pace of growth. Different individuals have their own struggle with the recovery. It is how they overcome one step at a time that counts.

I see social support as an important element to help people get through tough time, and I wholeheartedly hope that our volunteer program will help volunteers see the risk factors for those who are close to them such as family member, friend or colleague. When volunteers see some one they know are going through a tough time, they support and care for them, that little gesture can mean a lot to those who are struggling and a difference in the path to protect them from falling sick.