Moving to a new country isn’t easy. It’s a serious decision that requires much planning, determination, and self-sufficiency. You have to leave behind family and friends back home, while acclimating to a new culture, language, climate, and food. But for Kathrin, adjusting to a new country wasn’t too hard, thanks to the time she spent volunteering at Caledon Community Services (CCS).
When she first arrived in Canada, Kathrin had to adjust to the various changes in her life- separation from her family and friends, and adapting to life in a new environment. Instead of staying at home and feeling disconnected, Kathrin decided to volunteer at CCS so that she could learn more about the community. “I wanted to get involved, learn about the culture and the country. I felt very insecure and lonely when I first arrived in Canada, but the volunteers I met at CCS welcomed me with open arms and helped me settle into the community,” she explains. Through volunteering at CCS, Kathrin met new people and formed supportive relationships with others.
Volunteering at CCS also allowed Kathrin to learn and practise her English, as well as build up confidence in her skills and knowledge. Back in Germany, Kathrin served as a social worker for several years, so she decided to volunteer in her area of expertise. “At CCS, I was able to apply the skills and knowledge I learned from my years of work experience to help others, and this made me feel appreciated, needed, and useful – I felt that I was of value to the community,” Kathrin explains. CCS’s mission, “Help people help themselves,” became a source of motivation and encouragement to Kathrin. “CCS provides people with what they need – from social programs to transportation services, language sessions, youth programs, and employment workshops,” says Kathrin. “I felt excited to be a part of this mission.”
Besides providing Kathrin with emotional support, CCS helped Kathrin in preparing for employment. “I used them as my references for job applications, and they helped me build up my language skills.” Kathrin attended the resume workshops and job trainings offered by CCS to help her find employment.
To recognize Kathrin’s contributions to the community, Volunteer MBC presented her with the Newcomer Gem Volunteer Award in 2016. On receiving this award, Kathrin says that she felt overwhelmed, surprised, and emotional. “I really didn’t expect to be nominated – and certainly not to actually win – this award. When I arrived at the gala that day, I felt really uncomfortable and out of place. I sat down next to my colleagues, feeling pressured and overwhelmed. When they called my name, I felt so nervous, shocked and unprepared, and I didn’t know what to say,” Kathrin remarks. “But in the end, it was pure joy. I felt very thankful. I really never thought I’d done anything to deserve this award.”
A year after moving to Canada, Kathrin now works full-time at CCS’s second hand shop as its Retail Operations Lead. Reflecting on her past year, Kathrin thanks CCS for connecting her to the community. “I never thought that volunteering would lead me to a job at CCS. Volunteering has brought me to a place I never thought I would be.” Besides her work at CCS, Kathrin continues to volunteer at local organizations within the community. “I really encourage those who want to volunteer to just follow your heart. Think about getting involved and see what you get out of volunteering. Show your skills, be brave, and approach people, and you’ll learn so much more about yourself and others.” Volunteering really is a two-way street – you receive as much as you give.
Written by: Audrey Pao