The expanding role of volunteers at kidsLINK – Beyond one-on-one support, volunteers provide creative solutions
By: Kristian Partington
The open hearts and dedication of countless volunteers has always been a staple of the quality of service provided by kidsLINK to children with mental health issues and their families, and the depth of skill and experience these people offer continues to grow.
kidsLINK volunteer co-ordinator Selena Koprnicky points to an evolving approach to children’s mental health that focuses on wellness, resilience and healing from trauma as one of the factors allowing her to broaden the scope of volunteers she’s able to engage.
Traditionally, volunteers most often came from colleges and universities through psychology programs or early childhood education. Today, a yoga instructor offers classes for children and a certified Brain Gym instructor volunteers with the organization.
“People are looking for creative solutions to help our agency, as a not-for-profit organization, by having volunteers come in, providing that extra support,” Selena says.
“Having a volunteer free up some extra time for a staff member to take on another project; I think that’s really, really exciting.”
There are more than 100 child-care environments that could potentially be looking for a volunteer through kidsLINK at any given time in the Waterloo region, Selena says, and she’s always on the lookout for potential candidates.
Other kidsLINK programs that typically don’t seek volunteer support are realizing the benefits and looking for new ways to incorporate the generosity of community members into their operations, she adds, which again expands the search for quality volunteers.
“Some of the more successful volunteers on both ends are volunteers that come in with little or no experience working with kids,” she says, recalling one man’s impact on the classroom he volunteered in.
He had a background in optometry and had never volunteered with children.
“I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go over but I thought he was really interested and I’d give him a try,” Selena says.
“He had an immediate connection with the kids and he built a lot of really good relationships with the kids and the staff.”
What made it work was the fact that he had no preconceived notions of what to expect and he was honest about his mistakes with the children, asking them to support him and provide solutions when he faced challenges.
Though it was a few years ago, his honesty and efforts stand out in Selena’s mind, and she takes great pleasure in working with people from all walks of life like him who continue to dedicate their time to children in the region.
For more information on volunteering at kidsLINK call 519-741-1122 or e-mail volunteering@kidsLINKcares.com.
705-741-4421 ext. 24
800-294-0051 ext. 24