In honour of National Volunteer Week, we at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto wanted to do a little something to thank our outstanding volunteers. To showcase the amazing work that they do as an integral part of our mission, we are featuring volunteer stories on the blog this week. Be sure to check back each day for a new volunteer story! This is Aekus’ story.
I started to volunteer at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto back in 2015, when I was in grade nine. In all honesty, the initial push to volunteer came largely from the part of my parents, but as I quickly learned, it was one of the best decisions they made for me that year.
My journey with AST began with the Walk for Memories and then slowly progressed towards something far more niche. I’ve never had a family member diagnosed with dementia. Instead, the reason that I wanted to volunteer for the AST as opposed to the plethora of other NGOs out there, is because I have always been very awe-struck by Alzheimer’s disease and how inherently complex it is. Additionally, based on my personal experiences, I’ve noticed that many people are unaware of Alzheimer’s disease and often misconstrue it as old-age memory loss. I realized that even in Toronto, a city bustling with opportunities for everyone, there were still many minorities living in the shadows with limited access to programs like AST. I realized that the South Asian community was particularly uninformed about dementia and its symptoms. Fortunately, I could also tangibly help this minority group since I knew how to speak Hindi. I connected two and two together, and thought of contacting AST to see if they already had a program in place to provide dementia education in Hindi.
As it turns out, they were looking to start one, and, with the help of my parents, I jumped on board. My work began with Ms. Sudha Vavilla, a social worker at AST, around January of 2016, when we began looking for community agencies to partner with where we could present about Alzheimer’s and related dementia in Hindi. After contacting tens of agencies and receiving hesitant replies at best, we were finally able to find a community centre that would allow us to present to their South Asian guests.
Up until now, we have done 5 presentations at the centre and despite the short amount of time that I have volunteered at the AST, I have learned many things that I would probably have not learned during my high school career if it was not for this opportunity. Firstly, I learned how nail-biting cold-calling can be. As I made more and more calls, I soon became more acquainted with what to expect but the first call that I made to an agency was a dreadful experience. I’m very happy to have gotten over it. Secondly, I learned about how emotionally taxing facing rejection can be and how important it is to be resilient. I guess I always grew up with the belief that success comes more often than failure but that idea was thankfully quenched while making calls to different community agencies.