Office Coordinator MJ Cousins (left) and volunteer Gozde Celik chat while they work in the Saanich Volunteer Services Society office. (Sophie Heizer/News Staff)

Office Coordinator MJ Cousins (left) and volunteer Gozde Celik chat while they work in the Saanich Volunteer Services Society office. (Sophie Heizer/News Staff)

New Saanich resident says volunteers get back as much as they give

Saanich Volunteers Services Society member encourages others to help the community

When Gozde Celik moved to Saanich, she wanted to improve her English and help people so she went looking for volunteer work. She said volunteering helps her as much as she helps others.

READ ALSO: Ice Festival in Saanich needs a Grinch (and other volunteers)

Local volunteers play an essential role in the community; from ridding parks of invasive species to visiting with older residents.

Celik is originally from Turkey where she was a lawyer, and started volunteering with the Saanich Volunteers Services Society (SVSS) when she moved to B.C. from Ont. in May. Celik collects and enters donations into a database for SVSS. It’s a task she enjoys because she likes to help people and it uses some of her skills as a lawyer.

“People in Canada are very helpful, especially in this volunteer society, they’re very friendly,” Celik said. “They are helping me whenever I want, so this is the other reason why I am here.” She said it has been a good introduction to the community as well.

“I have a grandmother, and she has dementia, and I’m always sad about this situation,” Celik said. “So I thought maybe I can come in this society and this society has a lot of older people who want to have us. This is the good way to help older people.” Her grandmother lives in Turkey, but no longer remembers her.

Volunteer Gozde Celik (left) and Office Coordinator MJ Cousins at the Saanich Volunteer Services Society on Wednesday, December 4, 2019. (Sophie Heizer/News Staff)

SVSS Office Coordinator MJ Cousins said volunteers drive Saanich residents to medical appointments, help with transportation needs, and do social visits with older or widowed residents among many other tasks and events.

“Our main purpose is to help people live well and independently, and get them involved in social activities,” Cousins said.

Cousins said the organization partners with other organizations such as the District of Saanich, United Way, and Island Health to provide in-home care and services for older adults. The older person is assessed by a social worker, then SVSS matches them with a volunteer suitable to their needs and interests.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said people from all walks of life volunteer to help help others live better lives. “In Saanich our community of volunteers are a treasured and essential part of our social fabric,” Haynes said. “In many ways they have become vital to our residents and as mayor on behalf of council I send them my heartfelt thanks for all they do.”

There are also many opportunities to get involved on the parks side of helping the community out. Since 1991, volunteers with the Saanich Pulling Together Volunteer Program and the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society have been helping restore the park’s natural areas.

Celik recommends volunteering to anyone who would like to improve his or her English, be more social, get to know the community, don’t have a work permit, or just like helping other people.

READ ALSO: Volunteers rip out a ‘small hill’ of invasive plants from North Saanich park

sophie.heizer@saanichnews.com


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