National Volunteer Week: Testimonials that inspire
Volunteers undoubtedly represent a valuable asset to Quebec society. One act at a time, they make it fairer, more humane, and more inclusive. At Le Groupe Maurice, we take pride in the roughly 2,000 senior citizens who selflessly dedicate their time to volunteer in our various living environments. Their commitment and passion resonate throughout our residences and enrich the lives of everyone they touch. On the occasion of National Volunteer Week, we’re sharing three inspiring stories with you. As you read them, you’ll see just how much volunteering can contribute to the personal fulfillment and overall well-being of everyone.
Claudette St-Laurent Bura, volunteer and resident at L’Initial
Claudette St-Laurent Bura, a resident of L’INITIAL in Outaouais, is about to turn 77 at the end of the month – but she’s not slowing down. The former teacher has found a new outlet for her passion in volunteering, which allows her to continue to give back and help others.
Madame St-Laurent Bura, how would you describe yourself?
Well, I consider myself a positive person, even in the face of adversity. I enjoy getting to know people for their unique qualities and differences. I also cherish persistence, kindness, and patience. The values of respect, empathy and honesty are what guide me in my daily life.
What type of volunteer work do you do at L’INITIAL?
My volunteering mainly involves decoration for holiday events and monthly dinners, which often have themes. For example, the last one we had was a crazy hat theme, and the next one is going to be Hawaii. I’m already prepared; I’ve bought flower lei necklaces for myself and my friends (laughs). I find the decorations committee truly fun and stimulating!
Are you involved in other aspects of the residence?
Yes. There’s an activity that takes place on the first Saturday of every month. It’s called On jase-tu?, and the goal is to fight social isolation by examining various issues. I co-host the discussions with another woman, and I find it really fulfilling. I’m also interested in joining the Residents’ Committee, which we are steadily preparing for. I believe in the power of mutual support and although I am still independent, I think we need to care more about people who are less so.
Did you do volunteer work before you came to L’INITIAL?
When I retired in 2011, I participated in the Grandparents that Listen program. Once a week, I went to a school and spent an hour with two or three students reading, working on grammar and so forth. I also volunteered with the Filles de la Sagesse, a religious order. I met wonderful and amazing people there and I have many fond memories! Today, I’m considering offering my services to the elementary school across from the residence. However, I’m so busy here with decorations, choir, bowling, chair exercises, yoga, cabaret… so, maybe later. We’ll see! (laughs)
Why did you decide to be a volunteer at L’INITIAL?
You know, I believe the best way to make your new living space your own is to be involved in it. Doing so allows me to break down social barriers and isolation, and connect with others.
Amand Beaufils, volunteer and resident at Ékla
Meet 88-year-old Amand Beaufils, a resident at ÉKLA (Quebec) since its opening in 2017. As you’ll soon see, this energetic and conscientious man is an integral part of the community and contributes in many important ways.
Monsieur Beaufils, what kind of volunteer work do you do at the ÉKLA residence?
Well, first I give four stretching classes a week, all year round. I average about twenty participants per class. I also organize and co-host ÉKLA de génies, an activity that brings together about a hundred residents each week from January to April. During the winter evenings, teams of six seniors answer numerous questions on various subjects. It’s entertaining and people enjoy it! Finally, I’m co-manager of the woodworking shop, where each week, we help people with their small projects. That being said, anyone can come to the workshop to use hand tools like drills, scissors, screwdrivers… people can tinker with whatever they want. They know the schedule and come to take their turn.
Do you do any other volunteer work at the residence?
There is a huge greenhouse here. We sow more than a thousand seeds! At certain times, extra volunteers are needed, so I lend a helping hand. In other words, there are always activities within our reach. (laughs)
Did you do volunteer work before coming here?
I’ve volunteered a bit everywhere! (laughs) These days, I don’t volunteer outside the residence because as you can see, I’m quite busy!
Why did you choose to volunteer your services at ÉKLA?
To help out, really. It’s also a pleasant pastime. Volunteering allows us to stimulate ourselves, and staying active is important. As I’ve mentioned, I do a little bit of everything. I don’t know if it’s the best technique to stay fit, but it sure suits me! (laughs)
What do you think it offers those around you?
I think that residents appreciate what we, the volunteers, do for them. Several people, for example, find that stretching brings them a lot of benefits. Thanks to the exercises, they can do movements again that they couldn’t do before.
What do you especially like about ÉKLA?
At this residence, there are a lot of people participating in the organized activities. There are many activities available, which I find really great.
Martine Maltais, volunteer and resident at Vast
Martine Maltais is just 60 years old and amongst the youngest residents of VAST (Sainte-Julie). Feeling privileged to be able to participate in all the activities, she decided to offer her time to those with cognitive challenges and loss of physical autonomy.
Madame Maltais, how would you describe yourself?
I’m quite energetic and sociable. I genuinely enjoy interacting with people and that’s why I make it a point to greet everyone. Whether or not I know the person, I always ask them if they’re having a good day.
What kind of volunteer work do you do at the residence?
I volunteer in the Signature wing, which helps people who are having physical or cognitive loss of autonomy. I find these people so endearing. Even though they are facing difficulties, they radiate beautiful energy. I visit them often and always say “hi” because I like them so much!
Were you volunteering elsewhere before coming to VAST?
My daughter works at the Alzheimer Society on the South Shore, so I became a volunteer for their activities – and I also provide respite to family caregivers. I find it incredibly rewarding to be involved in such meaningful causes, and when I came to live at VAST, I knew it was a great opportunity to continue helping others in this way.
What is your goal as a volunteer?
I want to bring happiness to people who are alone by showing them love. And when I see the residents at Signature smile, that’s my gift, my reward! In fact, I really don’t see myself as a volunteer, but rather as someone who likes to help. I do what I do because I adore interacting with these residents. I just have fun with them, and I think they appreciate me a lot. In any case, that’s what their hugs and smiles tell me.
What does it give you in return?
It enriches my life because the people I meet share their oldest memories with me. They talk to me candidly, without holding back. It’s an honour to have them share their life experiences with me.
Is there a special memory you’d like to share related to your volunteering?
There are so many of them… for example, one day, a resident sang me a song. She told me she had sung it to her mother before she passed away. I could feel all her emotions, and I started to cry because I found it so beautiful. One thing is certain, I am truly happy to be there for the residents of Signature.
Le Groupe Maurice would like to express its gratitude to Madame Martine Maltais, Monsieur Amand Beaufils and Madame Claudette St-Laurent Bura for their dedication and generosity. We also wish to congratulate the many volunteers who devote their time and energy each day to our various residences. Your efforts do not go unnoticed. A huge THANK YOU to all!