We sat down with Kaylin O’Hara, a student at Lakehead University studying psychology, and a volunteer with Canadian Red Cross, to learn about her volunteering experience and advice for other students or recent graduates looking to gain volunteer experience or curious about Canadian Red Cross.
Q: Why did you decide to volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross?
A: I wanted to become a Red Cross volunteer because I had family members who were involved and always commented on how big of an impact the Red Cross can have on someone’s life. I know that if I needed help through a situation, I would want support from the community and I felt that I wanted to be that support for others in need.
Q: What skills have you found useful as a volunteer for the Canadian Red Cross? What skills have you learned so far?
A: I have found that empathy is one of the most useful skills. When helping community members through a crisis, sometimes what they need most is an ear to listen and someone to support them through their hard situation. As part of the Red Cross, I work as a team member to help the community. I have definitely learned to communicate better with people as it is key in achieving a common goal.
Q: Canadian Red Cross helps over 100,000 people and can do so because of volunteers like you. As a volunteer with the team, what have you worked on that you’re most proud of and where you can see a direct impact?
A: This year I was a Virtual Walmart Ambassador during the month of July in a fundraising campaign. As a volunteer, I was the communication bridge between the Red Cross and Walmart. I ensured that my store had all the needed resources and motivated them to raise the targeted goal for that store. I was most proud of this experience as we raised thousands of dollars that will be used to help the community and its members. All the money remains local and I know that many families and individuals will benefit from this.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted and shaped your current volunteer experience with the Canadian Red Cross?
A: Covid has changed the approaches to helping individuals in the community. Instead of physically going to meet the affected individual we have to assess their needs over the phone and make arrangements from a distance. It has presented a unique opportunity to further develop resilience and show commitment to the Red Cross organization. Despite being a different approach to helping others, I believe that Covid-19 has shown how much the Red Cross volunteers care about their communities.
Q: At the end of this volunteer experience, what do you anticipate your greatest takeaway will be?
A: At the end of this experience, I believe that the interpersonal skills that I have learned will be my greatest takeaway. There are opportunities to work with people from different cities, different backgrounds, and life experiences.
Q: Do you have advice for anyone else looking to volunteer or interested in working with the Canadian Red Cross?
A: My advice to anyone looking to work with/volunteer for the Red Cross is to be passionate about helping others and open to meeting and working with new people. It takes a lot of people working hard in order to help keep the Red Cross successful and able to help so many people.
Q: As a student at Lakehead University, what have you learned in class that you find most applicable to your volunteer experience? And, what have you learned at the Canadian Red Cross, through experience, that you couldn’t have learned in class?
A: As a psychology student, I learn a lot about mental health and how it can be affected. The Red Cross helps those who have been through a crisis and are in need of help – both physically and mentally. I believe that I am now more aware of different stages of grief and stages of mental health that can be experienced by others. Being more aware of mental states allows me to be more emotionally engaged and connect deeper with individuals needing help. The Red Cross has given me practical applications to what I learn in the classroom. A lot of my schooling is theoretical, so the Red Cross gives me exposure to real struggles that people may experience and that I may not learn from my professors or textbooks.
Q: Words to live by?
A: Kindness is the greatest gift that you can give someone.