Volunteering Provides Endless Learning Opportunities

During the last several months, our blog posts have focused in general terms on various aspects and benefits of volunteerism at Ontario Shores, such as reducing stigma and building partnerships to aid in recovery. You may wonder what motivates a volunteer to come forward and give freely of their time and talents. Every week, many volunteers participate in a variety of patient programs throughout the hospital. Over the next several months, you will have the opportunity to learn about these programs more intimately from a volunteer perspective. I hope that you will enjoy the inaugural “volunteer” blog submitted by volunteer Danielle McClorey. Danielle is registered in our summer student volunteer program and she is already making a difference at Ontario Shores.

By Danielle McClorey
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my blog post about my experience as a volunteer at Ontario Shores. While I have never officially written a blog post before, I hope to share with you why I was attracted to volunteering at Ontario Shores and some of my experiences volunteering with the Ontario Shores Supported Education Program (OSSEP).
Before enlightening you on how I became involved with Ontario Shores, I wanted to give you a quick background about my academic and career aspirations which have led me to volunteering at Ontario Shores. I am currently a student at Brock University in the Concurrent Education program, entering into teachers college in September. After completing my five years in university, I hope to find a position in the education field teaching in the Junior/Intermediate levels. More specifically, as a result of my experience thus far working as a volunteer at Ontario Shores, I hope to incorporate the knowledge I have obtained working alongside patients and staff at Ontario Shores as I work towards continuing mental health awareness in my future school communities.

What attracted me to Ontario Shores originally was my partnership with the TAMI program in high school. In my final year at All Saints Catholic Secondary School, I attended a TAMI Summit which led me to work with some of the staff at Ontario Shores to create a school based awareness group to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness in my community. Moving away to attend university however prevented me from continuing volunteering with Ontario Shores and the mental health awareness group called “Stomping Out Stigma” at All Saints. However, I never stopped being interested in learning about mental health and involving myself in programs that promoted mental health awareness. Before heading back to Durham for the summer months, I started researching volunteer opportunities that interested me and would also help me to gain experience in my field of work. Without any prior knowledge of the volunteer programs offered at Ontario Shores, I ended up on the Ontario Shores website to see any positions that could help me to get involved again with mental health. This is when I came across the Ontario Shores Supported Education Program (OSSEP). As a side note, I have always desired to incorporate mental health awareness into my educational philosophy. For example, I believe it is very important to educate children and youth on the importance of mental illness and the impacts of stigma. Therefore, I thought that working at Ontario Shores with vocational services would allow me to gain experience in an educational setting as well as allow me to become involved with mental illness once again.

My role as a volunteer with OSSEP is to assist patients in a 1-1 setting as they work towards obtaining their diplomas. Thus far, I have been able to work with staff and a few patients as they demonstrate to me what they are working towards in order for me to assist them wherever needed. Just in the first few weeks of volunteering at OSSEP, I have been able to see just how much this program is beneficial and a successful addition to Ontario Shores. The program is an excellent way to help support patients on their road to recovery by providing them the tools and support to become successful. Furthermore, it is through my experience with OSSEP and the staff and patients at Ontario Shores that I am learning ways that can contribute to my future approach to reducing stigma in the school communities.

My experience volunteering with OSSEP has been incredibly positive and rewarding. Both the staff and patients have been extremely welcoming to new volunteers and successfully create a positive and inviting environment. It is a great atmosphere to be in and program to be a part of. It is through my continued experience volunteering at Ontario Shores that I have become very proud to be a part of the Ontario Shores team.