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Our volunteers are making a world of difference!

April 19, 2021

By Kim Umbach

This week we celebrate National Volunteer Week, an opportunity to recognize millions of volunteers across Canada who give their time, energy and passion to support communities in Canada and around the world. During the pandemic it has become more difficult for volunteers to remain active, while the need for volunteers has never been greater. Yet PWRDF volunteers continue to demonstrate their generosity, commitment and creativity under these extraordinary circumstances.

It has been said that with COVID-19 we are all in the same storm, but in different boats. Inequities that exist in our society have been exposed and magnified and PWRDF volunteers have never waivered in their commitment to strive for social justice.

Thirteen months into this global pandemic that saw churches closed to in-person worship and gatherings cancelled, PWRDF volunteers – including Parish Representatives, Diocesan Representatives, Youth Council, the Board of Directors and Mapping Exercise Facilitators – have had to find new ways to engage the hearts and souls, and the minds and strength of Anglicans in the work of our partners. I have been most impressed with how our volunteers have embraced technology in order to share the stories of PWRDF partners.

This week, we are honoured to share the stories of a few of our volunteers:

Archdeacon John Clarke, Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Vice-president, PWRDF Board of Directors, and liaison to the Youth Council. Member of the PWRDF Board since 2016.

What inspires you to volunteer with PWRDF?

In my late teens, when I was seriously considering leaving the church because it seemed irrelevant, I heard a sermon about the work of PWRDF. Suddenly, the mission of the church through PWRDF to work towards a truly just, healthy and peaceful world not only seemed deeply relevant, but something I wanted to be a part of. I think our pews would be full if people associated the church more closely with what PWRDF does.

How has the pandemic affected your experience as a PWRDF volunteer?

I have learned (or at least, it’s been confirmed) that humans rely on one another. We need to make the commitment to keep one another safe. This extends beyond the pandemic and our reliance on one another is at the heart of PWRDF’s world view. The difficult things have been losing personal connections with people, which includes face to face meetings of the Board and the Youth Council. I have enjoyed learning new things about the technologies that are available to us and I suppose that these things enable us to meet more frequently (online). I have been able to utilize these technologies to connect with many friends and strangers around the world and to lift spirits in the midst of it all (this is not directly related to my commitment to the Board of PWRDF).

Fun fact: I like a category of poetry known as non-sense poetry.

Shirin Theophilus, Diocese of New Westminster, B.C., St. Anselm’s Church, PWRDF parish representative for 23 years 

What inspires you to volunteer with PWRDF?

Realizing the need to give more visibility and an opportunity to serve ‘the world’ from a tiny church, I took on this position whole-heartedly. After living in Nova Scotia for 19 years, I was so moved by the story of the beginnings of The Primate’s Fund established to help the Spring Hill mine disaster victims. Then the component of’ ” Development” was added. What joy and honour it is to be connected to the needy and desperate people  all over the world in prayer and by our financial support,  especially when natural amd man-made disasters hit the vulnerable population.

How has the pandemic affected your experience as a PWRDF volunteer?

As a Parish rep for PWRDF, I had been successful for years to celebrate the work of PWRDF on the Reign of Christ Sunday, bringing awareness and creating an opportunity to make donations to PWRDF. It is a very special day for St. Anselm’s but this year, everything changed due to COVID-19 by not being able to gather and celebrate together, sing together and share a meal together. I needed to re invent how to still keep the parish informed about PWRDF and as to how I may seek their donations. A new way of doing things evolved which still evoked a visceral experience I wrote a skit that was enacted and live streamed along with the service. I also provided a short message as to what we are able to achieve in partnership with PWRDF and intercessory prayers uplifting PWRDF in action in many countries and seeking blessings for the peoples of the world. There was a silent auction offering special home- cooker Indian   dinner for two as well as an Indian Night for lesser donations that were well received.

Fun fact: As an international student advisor, I was engaged in the student lives and they named me “Emotional marshmallow.” Yes, I love to laugh…cry with people when they are in distress but most of all I love to live my life with joy and gratitude to my Creator.

Duncan Chalmers, Diocese of British Columbia, PWRDF Youth Council Social Justice inFocus Program Chair, volunteer since 2018.

What inspires you to volunteer with PWRDF?

I’m inspired to work with PWRDF primarily through my passion for community-based development work. I greatly value PWRDF’s partnership model, one that empowers communities to spark and facilitate development from the ground up. This is incredibly important, as it ensures that equitable change comes about from a grassroots level. Moreover, I greatly value the work that PWRDF does with regards to refugee protection and migrant justice. Having lived and worked with a community of refugees along the Thai-Burma border, such work is close to my heart and I am proud to be involved with an organization that works towards safeguarding those who have been forcibly displaced.

How has the pandemic affected your experience as a PWRDF volunteer?

The pandemic has impacted my work on Youth Council in a variety of ways. Firstly, all of our meetings have shifted to a virtual, online format. Normally, we as a council meet twice a year in different locations across Canada, often with a local parish hosting us. Not having these in-person meetings has been quite a shift, as we as a group greatly value the time together in community on a semi-annual basis. Despite this, we’ve navigated the realities of COVID-19 as best we can, having become quite efficient in completing our various tasks from afar and getting creative in ways to connect with one another. Other challenges brought on by the pandemic include us not being able to speak about PWRDF in our local parishes and having to postpone/adapt the Social Justice inFocus Program, which was originally slated to run for it’s inaugural year in 2020. Social Justice inFocus is a new initiative from the youth council, striving to provide educational programming to high school aged youth on the topics of climate justice, ecological theology, and sustainable development. All in all, however, I’m grateful that the technology exists for us to continue our important work under these unorthodox, extenuating circumstances.

Fun fact: I played in the Kamloops Pipe Band for eight years when I was a teenager!

Gillian Power, Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, PWRDF Mapping Exercise Facilitator and Parish Representative, St. Timothy’s and St. Paul’s in Hatchet Lake and Terrance Bay, N.S. for seven years.

What inspires you to volunteer with PWRDF?

Having been to Haiti five times as a volunteer nurse, I wanted to continue to assist others less fortunate than us, and to raise awareness in my community of the plight of the global human suffering. People inherently care and want to help. It often just takes the sharing of a story to guide them in the direction of assisting with those needs.

PWRDF is a community of love. They don’t just provide funding, although this is important in times of crisis. They work with partners on the ground, to empower people of all cultures to be self sufficient, assisting in education and developing ideas and skillsets that are outside the box.

I am honoured to be a small part of this important worldwide initiative where we literally love our brothers and sisters as much as ourselves.

Being trained as a Mapping Exercise Facilitator as part of PWRDF’s goal of Mutual Reconciliation with our Indigenous communities was a very enlightening experience. It broadened my understanding of colonialism and the disastrous effects it has on our Indigenous brothers and sisters, as well as the damage it has done to our ability to love all of creation.  This exercise has pushed me to learn more and to listen to the Indigenous stories that accompany our collective Canadian history.

How has the pandemic affected your experience as a PWRDF volunteer?

The pandemic has forced me to personally “sit still” and just “be”, not an easy task for someone who is always doing! Given the Public Health restrictions, the Mapping Exercise was put on hold for one year. However, Nova Scotia has kept our COVID-19 cases low, so I was recently given the opportunity to offer the exercise to a very small group of Confirmation Candidates. It was so exciting to be back walking on the Map and to listen to their thoughtful responses as they came to understand the effects of colonialism.  As a parish, we continue our efforts to inform and assist with PWRDF projects, through sharing emails and planning our PWRDF Sunday. 

Fun fact: I love to explore the world. So far, I have been to 34 countries and 5 continents and I continue my longing to see the world, once it is safe to do so. We have so much to learn from each other, and I am thirsty for that learning! 

Sophie Kiwala, Diocese of Ontario, PWRDF Diocesan Representative since December 2020

What inspires you to volunteer with PWRDF?

When the pandemic started I initiated two major projects; a 100’ X 50’ charity garden as well as launching a vulnerable sector group to address community needs, particularly around food security. The groups that I am working with support people who are without housing and who are suffering from addictions and mental health challenges. I knew it was imperative that we address the colossal needs in our own community, but the less fortunate regions in Canada and around the world weighed heavily on my mind. There was so much more work to be done so saying yes to being a PWRDF volunteer just made so much sense.  

I am thrilled to volunteer with PWRDF because of the many different ways in which it fulfills our mission in action. PWRDF supports initiatives all over the world that prioritize areas of development and social justice issues that I am passionate about, such as projects that support preventive health, food security, empowering women, Indigenous programs, humanitarian responses/disaster relief, supporting refugees and development programs. We know that human beings are at their best when they are helping one another and making a difference in one another’s lives. Supporting PWRDF not only provides critical support to the beneficiaries of the programs, but it also allows us to fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission, strengthening our relationship with God, and inspiring others to do the same along the way. 

How has the pandemic affected your experience as a PWRDF volunteer?

Starting my position as a PWRDF diocesan representative during the pandemic did not affect my experience any more than the other pandemic community challenges that I was dealing with.  The largest challenge that we faced was ensuring that all parish reps had access to the online tools so that we can continue to have our meetings. One thing I have learned is that there is no shortage of things to learn about PWRDF’s wonderful programs! The learning curve is constant which I find tremendously exciting. As soon as I started my work as a representative I set out to build our database and have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the numbers begin to grow. I have been posting about PWRDF on Facebook every Friday and I have enjoyed seeing the awareness build around PWRDF programming. 

Fun facts:

  • I got stranded on a sailboat with a broken motor in the Bermuda triangle on my honeymoon and ran out of food and water.
  • I was a Member of Provincial Parliament.
  • I travelled to Bali to take a yoga certification training program. 

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