• Sharon Kelly

Making a Difference… this is not the end, just a change

For those of you who know me well, you know that volunteering has been a big part of my life for the better part of two decades. And all of that time has been spent as a volunteer at sexual assault centres in the area, mostly working as a volunteer crisis line counsellor (except for a four year stint on the board of directors). Through my work at what was then called Rape Crisis Centre of Peel (RCCP) from 1999-2013 and then at Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Services of Halton (SAVIS) from 2014 to this past February, I have spoken to countless survivors of sexual violence and listened to some truly horrific stories. I have felt their pain and heart break, and have had my heart broken along with them. I have been inspired by their incredible strength and resilience and courage. And I have even shared some laughs amidst all the pain. I have felt truly privileged to hear their stories and it has made me a better person – one with great listening skills (for the most part!), with more compassion and empathy for others and with a deep appreciation for how great my life has been. Through my work at SAVIS, I became aware of an organization called Rising Angels, a small but mighty organization that works to bring sex trade education to professionals and the public, and provide supportive services and safe environments to women who have been exploited by the sex trade. It was with them that I did my last volunteer act in Canada – at least for the next two years – helping out at their annual Tea of Hope fundraiser this past Saturday.

As I have been preparing to make the life change, letting go of that part of my life had to happen. It’s been hard… I have spent so much of my life as a volunteer that it has, in part, helped to define who I am. But as who I am is someone who cares deeply about social issues and helping others, I will definitely seek out opportunities to do so as I travel. I will not be able to make the kind of commitment like I did at RCCP or SAVIS, but I will look for ways to keep volunteer work in my life – whether it be volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand or working with an organization that helps empower women in Africa. The opportunities are plentiful because, unfortunately, there are no many people in this great big world of ours who need a little help. And maybe what I find will lead me into a new direction in philanthropy and/or activism.

#volunteering #makingthechange

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