Volunteer Profile: Ernst

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[Khadija, Summer Special Projects Assistant at House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hamper Program, wrote the following profile.]

I remember when I initially met Ernst I liked how friendly and warm he was to everyone around him. I appreciated not only seeing that but also experiencing that when I started working here. Always happy and always ready to help a hand, Ernst has definitely made his impact here since he started volunteering this past April–already a whopping 92 hours!

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Can you tell me about how you ended up here at the food hamper program?

I also volunteer at the Charles Street Men’s Hostel and one of the staff there was bringing a volunteer group to the Food Hamper Program. He asked me if I wanted to come with him. I liked it here because it reminded me of when I also volunteered at the food bank in Amsterdam–where I used to live.

Why do you volunteer here? Is it important to you?

I volunteer because I was already well acquainted with the food bank and how they run. I thought it would be fun to get involved again and it was. I also volunteer here because I am a new immigrant and I’m waiting for my permanent residency so in the meantime I am not allowed to work. To keep myself busy so I don’t go crazy I have to do things. And what I can do legally is volunteer. I plan to work in addiction counseling when I am allowed to work in Canada.

What do you enjoy about volunteering at the EFHP?

Packing the hampers is fun because you have this grocery list and then you run around the warehouse picking all the stuff and putting it in a box. The volunteers here are a lot of fun and are nice people and that always makes it fun too. You are doing some good work- you are helping people. It’s fun to do and you are doing it with fun people and that’s the most important thing.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

I’ve only done one which is packing hampers. The one thing here is that there is so much diversity and you aren’t doing one thing all the time. If I was here and had to fill a bag of potatoes every time it would be boring. Hamper packing is also fun and when you are not so busy you can always do other things. That diversity makes it better.

Is there anything you want to share with the community about House of Friendship? (Good or bad!)

You get to know the people that you help and people you usually will not meet.  I’ve grown up in a middle class family and always done middle class jobs. By doing this kind of volunteer work you get a broader view of society and it humbles you. It’s very easy to judge and criticize but you get a chance to empathize with them. It grounds you being here.

What keeps you busy when you aren’t here? Are there any other programs that you are or have volunteered with?

The men’s hostel keeps me busy for four days a week. Since I don’t work, that takes up most of my time. I look after the dogs in the house. I like to do sports-running, cycling and training. I like to keep fit because it makes me feel good and it’s now become a habit for me. I’ve been active all my life – I can’t imagine not doing it. It’s important to be healthy and not turn into a couch potato. I need to keep busy; I can’t sit around the house all day and do menial tasks – I will go crazy. I go to the library, watch movies, attend cultural events and just try to have fun while I wait to be able to work.

Do you have any favourite moments or experiences here?

The second or third time I ever volunteered here it was my birthday and then they had cake for me. It was so thoughtful – I was like wow that’s nice because I’ve only been here twice. I’ll never forget that.

Ernst rarely sits still–only for volunteer profiles, birthday cake, and to make sure his cycling shoes are tight, before he hops on his bike to ride home. As I’ve gotten to know him, I’ve been impressed by how quickly and deeply he has jumped into working in this community, helping regularly at the Men’s Hostel, and now here at food hampers. Few people fill up ALL of their days with helping others, but I can see that this is the case with Ernst. Communities thrive because of large-hearted people like him. We’re lucky he chose us, and many more have benefited from his contributions here. Thanks Ernst!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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