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Volunteering with Seniors at NYCH

By Besma Soltan, Training Coordinator, Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers

Building on the success of its first year, the Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers (NCSC) project continues to connect volunteers to isolated, newcomer senior caregivers. The volunteers have been a mixture of newcomers to Canada, recent university graduates from health- or social services-related programs, and seniors who were caregivers themselves. This diversity, along with the diversity of our volunteers' spoken languages and cultures, has allowed us to create balanced programs that effectively respond to the needs of caregivers. 

It provided me with a good start to my career, where I developed great experience interacting with seniors.

Feda, Volunteer with NYCH's NCSC program

Volunteering is a rewarding experience, with the reward depending on the volunteer’s objective. All of our volunteers receive a comprehensive training that provides information on the issues faced by caregivers (aged 55+) and the impact of their role. As the number of seniors in Canada continues to rise, and with it the number of caregivers, being aware of this larger context has allowed our volunteers to realize the importance of their role within the program, as well as outside of it. 

Feda is one volunteer who took this experience to the next level. Feda’s interest in working with seniors grew after being matched one-on-one with an isolated caregiver in the NCSC Friendly Visiting Program. She was able to connect her caregiver partner to information and resources, helped her improve her English skills, and created a safe environment for the caregiver to open up about her struggles as a newcomer and a caregiver. This knowledge gave Feda a good start in her new role working in a seniors' home. “It provided me with a good start to my career, where I developed great experience interacting with seniors”, Feda shared.

Other volunteers shared their joy at seeing how enthusiastic older caregivers were about improving their knowledge and skills. “This is an impetus for the volunteer mentor to also support them with computer learning”, shared Minakshi Das, one of our NCSC volunteers. Minakshi has worked one-on-one with an isolated caregiver, and is now matched with a couple to provide computer instruction, which is one of her passions and one of the couple’s goals.

With 8 million caregivers in Canada, the majority providing care to a close family member (carerscanada.ca), we depend on our volunteers to help connect them (and their care-recipient) to information and available services. We have also been happy to see the benefit for both partners, with the caregivers finding companionship and links to resources which they weren’t previously aware, and the volunteers learning new information themselves and enhancing their transferable skills. 

We look forward to working with more amazing volunteers who enhance the value of the program, and contribute to making the lives of senior caregivers better.


To volunteer, please contact Besma Soltan, Training Coordinator for NCSC, at bsoltan@nych.ca or 647-459-0547. If you are a caregiver or know of one, please contact Shova Adhikhari, NCSC Outreach Coordinator, at sadhikari@nych.ca or 647-208-9733.


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In Good Company: Filippo and Helen’s Story

by Marisanna Tersigni

"A friend is what the heart needs all the time." – Henry van Dyke

Filippo and Helen

Filippo and Helen

Over the past six months, Helen and Filippo have connected through North York Community House’s Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers program (NCSC). Part of the ENRICHES.ca collaborative, this Friendly Visiting mentorship program was created to match isolated caregivers (55 years and older) with volunteers who offer their support and a connection to the community.

Filippo is a caregiver to a close relative and Helen is a Volunteer Mentor, and together, they are one of the many successful matches taking part in the NCSC program. On a weekly basis, the two of them connect at a local library and over the phone.

“It’s nice having conversations with my mentor. I am content that I met her this year." - Filippo

Filippo and Helen are respectful of one another and this openness has allowed for a friendly exchange and a successful mentoring relationship. They have exchanged stories and experiences, and as a result, have built trust and mutual respect. Helen expressed that their constant communication and updates over the past six months is one positive aspect of their match.

“Together, we made a significant difference to the caregiver and care receiver’s needs, reduced isolation, enhanced his life and created an enriching experience for both of us." - Helen

Filippo shared similar thoughts and is grateful for Helen’s support, availability and friendship. He gained a new source of support this year with the NCSC program. Out of this experience, Filippo has been able to practice speaking English and has become more comfortable speaking to others. He has also been connected to a variety of community supports including healthcare and other resources. He shared, “(Helen) even accompanied me to an appointment which was a great help”. Filippo’s kindness and friendliness has been appreciated by Helen and all of us at NYCH.

“Friendly visiting is a great idea because it helps to increase one’s self-confidence. Our mentoring relationship has yielded some positive stories in our lives." - Helen

“Everyone I have met here has been fantastic. They are very kind and helpful. I feel like I am one of you." - Filippo


Please contact Shova for more information on our Friendly Visiting program, social programs, and educational workshops for older adults: sadhikari@nych.ca or 647-208-9733. 


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Caregiver Seniors Manage Stress Through Yoga

This June, the Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers project completed another yoga program at the Gord and Irene Risk Community Centre. The program was organized in partnership with Delta Family Resource Centre and delivered by a wonderful volunteer yoga instructor, Imelda Villalon.

There was a huge turnout with an average of 20 seniors every week.  The program provided an opportunity for older adults and senior caregivers to improve posture, manage stress and learn some useful tips to stay healthy. It also helped them make connections with one another and reduce social isolation.  

Participants said that they enjoyed the session and felt a difference in their well-being. They thanked Imelda for sharing her knowledge and humour with them. Some participants expressed that they found this yoga group different from others. “Although it was a big group, the yoga instructor was very flexible. She adjusted in a way that everyone could [go at] his or her own pace. It was more relaxing and suitable for seniors’ needs."

One of the senior caregivers said, “I started doing yoga at home as per suggestion from Imelda and I am very happy that I joined this group”.

We are grateful to Imelda for sharing her expertise and to the Delta Family Resource Centre for organizing the space and helping us to spread the word to senior caregivers.  

Please contact Shova Adhikari for more information on our Friendly Visiting program, educational workshops, and group activities for caregivers 55 years of age and older. sadhikari@nych.ca or 647-208-9733.

ABOUT THE NEWCOMER CONNECTIONS FOR SENIOR CAREGIVERS PROJECT
The Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers project is part of the ENRICHES Initiative. The aim of our collaborative is to identify, engage, and support senior caregivers in northwest Toronto who are at a high risk for social isolation due to language and cultural barriers. We will connect seniors to peer mentors and youth volunteers to provide information and support in the caregivers’ own languages and provide direct services both in the community and at home. Learn more

 

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English Conversation Circles with Senior Caregivers

NYCH’s Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers program offered an English Conversation Circle at the Jane Street Hub from May until July.  Twenty senior caregivers (older adults who are informally supporting a family member or friend) participated, and five volunteers facilitated the groups. 

NCSC’s social work student, Laxmi Gurung, thought the enthusiasm of the facilitators was very impressive. “Also, the senior caregivers who could speak English were encouraging other participants to communicate in English saying, ‘Yes, you can do it, say it in English.’  It was very inspiring to see this kind of spirit in senior caregivers.”  

One participant’s experience went beyond learning conversational English skills. “I like this English program. I learned more English. Before I was not talking, but in this English class I learned more talking and sharing.”  

This sharing aspect was felt by volunteers as well. “The caregivers could share cultural issues and cultural ideas,” said volunteer Nadereh Javadinsa. She also acknowledged that, apart from her enjoyment of the group, participants benefited by “overcoming isolation and feeling lonely at home.”

Volunteer Nadereh (right) with ECC participants

Volunteer Nadereh (right) with ECC participants

We’d like to acknowledge the time and dedication of NYCH volunteers. We are also grateful to the Tamil Seniors of Self-Reliance group leaders for introducing us to their participants and friends!

For more information on our Friendly Visiting program, educational workshops, and group activities for senior caregivers, please contact Shova Adhikari: sadhikari@nych.ca or 647-208-9733.

ABOUT THE NEWCOMER CONNECTIONS FOR SENIOR CAREGIVERS PROJECT
The Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers project is part of the ENRICHES Initiative. The aim of our collaborative is to identify, engage, and support senior caregivers in northwest Toronto who are at a high risk for social isolation due to language and cultural barriers. We will connect seniors to peer mentors and youth volunteers to provide information and support in the caregivers’ own languages and provide direct services both in the community and at home. Learn more

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