The following is the first instalment in a series focusing on, “Toronto Pandemic Volunteering.” It’s a blog post written by Ritu Kohli-Sethi. Hope you enjoy!
Growing up, as a member of an expat family, I moved around a lot. There are of course many wonderful aspects to living in different countries during my early years of life because it exposed me to so many different cultures, taught me how to adapt to new environments and showed me different parts of the world.
With the benefits there are drawbacks, such as forming relationships, and lack of a sense of community. After moving to Canada, I really gained appreciation for community and the value of establishing roots.
What really is a community? To me m, it’s a sense of belonging; a connection that a few share simply because of where they may reside or a particular common factor that binds them.
Our children are very fortunate to live in an era where they no longer have to lose friendships because someone has moved. Technology allows us to stay connected, but technology simply cannot replace human connection, bond of community and friendships.
I may not know everyone living on my street or every business within the 10 km radius, but I do know that the power of a community to bring people together, create neighbourhoods and (most importantly) inspire people to help those around them when needed, is vital.
I recall several occasions where a neighbor needed a battery boost, dropped off cookies because they were baking or simply joined celebrations of one another’s traditions and festivals. It felt great when someone wants to learn about you, where you come from and your way of life.
Giving our children a sense of community, knowing the importance of volunteering or donating to a charity is so vital to me as it teaches empathy, kindness and generosity. Children who see kindness and selfless acts through observation helps them become more empathetic to others and their situations. More importantly, I hope it teaches them, like it taught me, the value of selflessly helping others.
The pandemic is making the value of community, charity and volunteering a little harder to teach our kids, as we aren’t outside as much or visiting neighbours, playing in parks closely etc. As a family, in my father’s honor we volunteered at the food bank together and raised money for various charity initiatives in the community or through their school which required their physical hard work and effort.
Covid-19 unfortunately hasn’t diminished the need for community support but definitely made it more challenging. How can you continue your efforts, as a family to volunteer, support your community or donate? Here are some suggestions:
- As a family make some care cards for seniors in the local long term care home in your area. Be sure to contact the facility before you begin this as some are not accepting anything from the outside, while others are accepting with some restrictions.
- Donate the necessary food items required by your local food bank – In our home we gave each child a budget and the local food bank list of necessities. Using a online grocery app, they selected the items that were on the list, while maximizing the value of their budget.
- Organize a contactless food or clothing drive on your driveway or suitable location – as a family make a plan to organize the drive, informing local community, family and friends and creating a safe way to do the drop off.
- Participate in a virtual charity event or and outdoor fund raising event, depending on your city’s restrictions. A virtual run is a great initiative as this can be done together as a family in your own area while still being a part of something great.
- Organize a tree planting or park clean up – Connect with your local municipality body or or a local charity. This is a great initiative that can be done as a family, outdoors and physically distanced. Depending on the area size and the number of families interested in volunteering, you can create a schedule so you are adhering to the local area’s guidelines and gathering mandates. You can take it one step further and speak to local businesses in the area to donate some goodie bag items as a thank you for the volunteers. This is a great exercise in education and communication for your kids as well.
- Help your neighbours who are seniors or unable to maintain some of their outdoor yard activities by mowing their lawn, yard cleaning or maybe snow shovelling.
Staying indoors doesn’t mean we can’t call those around us to check-in on them or just stay in touch. I am sure there are so many more things which we could all do as families.
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