Changing Lives

Just a few of the many lives we touched this year

Odette Videla
After volunteering at Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH) in Grade 11 for her high school graduation, Odette Videla never left. The 19 year old continues to volunteer with youth programs and, more recently, began working with child care services offered through CNH, too.

“They have the youth program so [during high school] I would come here every Friday and Saturday to help in the kitchen or in the gym or to help set up when we had events,” she said. “But now I just come here for fun and to help out if they need it, especially in the kitchen.” Odette has spent more than 15 years living in the neighbourhood, but she only recalls visiting the neighbourhood house in her earlier years, when her younger sister attended daycare. On Friday evenings, Odette can be found leading baking sessions for Kids’ Kitchen. She often makes cookies with the participants, who range from 10 to 18 years old, but sometimes she switches it up, opting for a recipe new to the youth.

Odette says she enjoys working with children and youth. On her days off, she visits CNH “to relax” and spend time with other children and youth. She credits staff from youth services for encouraging her to volunteer with different programs and to participate in new opportunities at CNH, as well as for assisting her with seeking job opportunities.

“I’ve learned that it’s better to keep being open minded,” Odette said. As for her advice to other young people in the community? “Try to help out as much as you want and can, and don’t be afraid to talk to others or see if they’re okay,” she said. “And just invite everyone in when you see someone new.”

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Maryam Shariatzadeh-Joneidi
Visit Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH), “it’s good for you,” Maryam Shariatzadeh-Joneidi says.

A newcomer from Iran, Maryam made her first visit to CNH two years ago, thanks to a recommendation from her daughter-in-law. Maryam says she immediately filled out a volunteer form and now spends anywhere between four to five days a week here. It turns out CNH was a natural fit.

On Mondays, she is in the kitchen cooking; Wednesdays are spent on the rooftop, gardening. On Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays, she is practicing her English, and sometimes spends Saturdays in drawing workshops. In the fall, she hopes to be volunteering with Collingwood’s child care services. “I always like gardening, I always like looking after the kids, and I like working [in] the kitchen,” she said. “I have three children and we’re [in] the kitchen all the time.” CNH has remained a major learning opportunity for Maryam, whether it’s a new recipe or a new plant. However, the people at CNH have remained an important part of the neighbourhood house for her, too. Everyone at Collingwood is nice, helpful, and makes her feel comfortable, she says.

For these reasons, Maryam regularly advises others to visit CNH, whether they’re another immigrant from Iran or a neighbour. After all, CNH has become a place for Maryam to create, learn, and grow. “Everything is good for me,” she said. “It’s a good place.”

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Lisa Pan and Martha Barrones
If there’s one thing Lisa Pan and Martha Barrones learned from participating in an intergenerational program at CNH last year, it’s that communication transcends shared language.

Both seniors were invited to take part in Ages and Stages, a nine-month program for seniors and preschoolers to share activities such as gardening, baking, art, and field trips to the Vancouver Aquarium and pumpkin patch.

For Lisa, it was the first time she had worked with children at CNH. Through her participation, she learned a lot about caring for the young participants. In addition, she learned to communicate through expressions, too.

“Some people worry [if] they can’t speak English with the kids,” Lisa said.
“They don’t know how.”

For seniors who don’t know English, communication can be scary, she said, but that shouldn’t deter them from working with or meeting others. During the program, Lisa said, good communications became as simple as recognizing the smile on a child’s face. Martha agreed.

Gestures play a big role in communication, whether it’s in the form of a hug, a wave or a smile, she noted. Through these simple acts, Martha learned how caring children can be.

For example, after a visit to the pumpkin patch, one of the children fell asleep while leaning on her during the trip back to CNH. It meant a lot to Martha. “You don't need to speak the language of the child,” she said. “Only the attitude [matters], that’s it, and caring for them.”

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