When people volunteer, they often do so to get more experience and exposure to something they are interested in. Other times people know a great deal about something and will volunteer their time to help others learn about it, such is the case with Mila Fokas who has volunteered at places where she has been able to help people explore their interests and passion for music.
Mila wanted to volunteer because of her musical passion and because of her desire to give back to the community. She felt the need to share her passion with others, and did so by creating a music program based on the development of speech and language. The program takes in consideration a child’s development throughout all of the domains such as: language, social, emotional, cognitive and physical. The relationship between mind and body is practiced and strengthen through the application of music playing and singing.
The program was designed for group work and has in its structure elements such as imitation, games, dance, playing on the percussion instruments and singing. Mila had the idea for this program, but spoke to Shaminda Perera, Volunteer MBC’s Manager of Community Engagement, for advice on how to create a proposal for it to be considered by organizations that work with children with special needs.
A few of the places and roles that Mila has brought her musical talent to through volunteering include Kerry’s Place in Brampton where she taught a group music class to children who have been diagnosed with autism; at Cardinal Newman Public School in Brampton where she taught and performed music for a class of children with special needs; and at the Older Adult Center in Mississauga where she taught a group of seniors how to sing in her role as a choir conductor.
Other volunteer roles that she has lent her time to include the Multiple Sclerosis Society in Mississauga where she drove clients to the local food bank and took them for walks; as well as helping out at a variety of fundraising events.
Even though through volunteering she was educating and helping others to learn music she, herself, learned a great deal from the whole experience. Mila learned about how different organizations operate, but more importantly she learned more about the struggles that children with challenges deal with on a daily basis. She also gained a better understanding of the daily challenges that parents who have children with challenges face. Even though it may seem difficult at times to work with children, Mila’s biggest accomplishment and joy in volunteering is making children and the people she shares her talent with happy.
Mila describes that one of the greatest benefits of volunteering is being able to learn what to expect from the organization, as well as learning more about different roles that are available and the opportunities out there.
She believes in the importance of music lessons for the overall child’s development and states: "Music practice improves many skills in a child including cognitive, language, social, emotional and motor skills. If a family has a child with special needs, usually one of the parents needs to stay home to take care of the child. This means that the family will, often times, have a lower income and it will be very hard for them to afford to pay for any extra activities for their child, such as music classes."
Mila currently works for PLASP Child Care Services where she assists with the children who have special needs. She also works for the Kidszone Daycare Centre located in Mississauga as a yoga instructor and is the only Educator in Peel Region that teaches yoga classes to toddlers and pre-school groups of children.
She is also working on completing her Early Childhood Education at Sheridan College and recently received a Leadership scholarship, which is the highest scholarship granted to only one student per year. When asked how she felt about receiving this scholarship: "I am very happy to get this scholarship because I feel more confident in myself and my future."
Mila is hoping that in the future more music programs and classes will be available for children with special needs.
Written by: Andrew Dmytrasz & Sharon Clark-Koufis