Karim Mamdani

Ontario Shores

Karima Velji

Sanaz Riahi

#NVW2021 - 'The Experience Meant the World to Me'

Many people choose to volunteer to give back to a cause or organization that has a personal meaning for them and this is especially true for me.

In 2014 I realized that I was not dealing well with my mental health and decided to get help for the depression and social anxiety I was dealing with. Ontario Shores was exceptional in providing services that taught me the skills to take care of myself and my mental health.

Once I felt that my recovery was well under way, I knew I wanted to give back to the incredible facility that helped me so much.

I began volunteering in holiday events as well as in various inpatient units throughout the hospital.

I’ve been an active volunteer for some time but then COVID-19 came into our lives which impacted those who receive care, work and volunteer in the hospital. 

Once services were able to resume on-site, I started volunteering in the Gift Shop. Although I lacked the direct engagement with the patients, I was happy to help out and offer services during the holiday season.

We knew we needed to do something to make this time of year special for those who couldn’t leave the hospital so we formed the Holiday Committee and provided every patient in the hospital with a gift bag. We reached out to family, friends, community members, work colleagues for donations of gifts or monetary contributions. The response was overwhelming. Not only did we achieve our goal - it was exceeded. It was so fulfilling to know that we were giving joy to those who needed it most.

It was gratifying to receive the positive feedback from the staff that distributed the gift bags and to know that we made such a difference in the lives of the patients. This is something we plan to do every year and I expect it will only get better as we have more time to plan and organize ourselves going forward.

The experience meant the world to me and I am looking forward to it for the years to come.

As I reflect on my own recovery journey, I cannot help but smile. When I dealt with social anxiety in the past, I did not want to leave my house or be in social settings. Now there is nothing I want more. I am fortunate that I can fulfill that by volunteering at Ontario Shores.

I look forward to the time when I can contribute directly to the patients and hopefully have a positive impact on their recovery story.