A Journey of Empathy, Connection, and Resilience

Marcella-Tomas-CEO
When you follow your passion to volunteer, it helps to have a good sense of humour for those tough times. A gift from Marcella’s sister … that hasn’t seemed to work!

Why do you do it, why are you a volunteer Executive Director for a charity?

I get asked this question almost everyday, often by myself working at 3 am to meet a deadline (as I am right now), so you’d think that I’d have a good answer. But, I still struggle to put into words why volunteering is, and always has been, so important throughout my life.

All the classic reasons are as true for me as they are for anyone else. Volunteering has opened up many new doors. I’ve made life-long friends, learned new skills, and have felt the joy that helping others brings. But volunteering is definitely more than that.

I believe that giving freely of my time and energy has helped me to truly experience and appreciate the world from different perspectives. I’ve become more empathetic to the challenges we all face from time-to-time, and I would like to think more patient as a result. When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes with a mindset not to judge but help, your own life is richer for it.

Canadian Connections was formed in August 2021 in response to the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and as evacuated refugees started arriving in Canada. Immediately, a group of friends joined forces to help. We were teachers, artists, community activists, accountants, documentary film makers and so on. I can honestly say that I have never, ever worked with such a committed group of people. ‘Volunteer Dream Team’ I used to call us. We GSD – get ‘stuff’ done!

Marcella-Tomas-1
Canadian Connections is a proud recipient of the Centre for Social Innovation’s 2023 Bowtie Award for its exceptional community building achievements.

What we accomplished in those early months was incredible and became the catalyst for the still very ‘grassroots’ organization we are today. We experienced, firsthand, what was possible when people care enough to do something, and that’s a powerful feeling; powerful in a good way. But relying on a handful of albeit highly motivated volunteers was never going to last. A little structure was needed if we were to continue building on our approach of ‘early intervention, low-barrier, and meaningful support’.

Fast forward 2 and a half years and Canadian Connections is a registered charity, with refugee staff and a growing team of volunteers that help us live our values of putting people first, trusting in each other, and demonstrating a resilience that will see us achieve our vision of a welcoming Canada. Take a look at CC’s mission to learn more about it.

A ‘thank you’ to Canadian Connections’ Volunteer Dream Team after just 3 months of phenomenal work during the height of covid.
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