By: Sally Russell

My name is Sally Russell, and I’ve been working as a full-time volunteer with Inn from the Cold since October.  Before that, I spent my summer volunteering in halfway across the country in Quebec City.  I am a Katimavik volunteer, and I am so lucky to have been able to spend my last three months away from home working with an organization like the Inn.

Katimavik, for those who haven’t heard of it, is a six-month volunteer program that invites youth from all over the country to travel and work with non-profits from coast to coast.  My group is one of six currently stationed across Canada, from Nanaimo to Moncton, spending our time volunteering in the communities that we live in and learning about being engaged, conscious Canadian citizens. When my group first got to Calgary in October, we did a tour of the organizations that each of us would be working at until our departure just before Christmas.  I had an idea of what Inn from the Cold did as a family shelter before we arrived, but I remember being just amazed by what I heard on our visit that day, and by the welcoming and positive energy I felt in the building. The next week, after a day of five-minute speed-dating style interviews with all of the organizations partnered with Katimavik, I was matched with Inn from the Cold’s Communications Team as my placement for the next three months.

The work I do at the Inn with the communications team is not what I used to consider “traditional volunteer work”.  I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to branch out from that idea, especially as what I do has evolved from the original job description to better suit my own skills and interests. This flexibility is part of why I’ve loved my time at the Inn so much because it allows me to get a deeper understanding of how the organization works as a whole, as well as to hone some professional skills that I hadn’t had a chance to focus on in the past. I’ve been able to work shifts with the front desk and with the Youth Zone, I’ve created many event and information posters, managed the organization’s general inbox, and been present to help with events that the Inn has hosted.

All of these experiences have helped me understand a field of work I had never considered for myself in the future, but that I now feel quite comfortable in. When I applied to Katimavik, it was with the hope that the program would help me find an area of work that I want to pursue in my studies and in my future.  Now, a week before I’ll be leaving for home, I find that my time at the Inn has only opened up more possibilities instead of narrowing down my original choices. The learning and challenges I faced in this fast-paced work environment have helped me develop professionally like I never thought!

Honestly, I had a hard time writing this post.  I’m not quite sure how to articulate everything I’ve learned here, or how much it means to me that I had the opportunity to contribute in some way to an organization like Inn from the Cold.  That energy that I felt on my first visit has never waned, and I look forward to coming in to work every day because of it and because of the people I work with.  There’s a lot to get done at the Inn, and the subject matter we deal with on a daily basis (that is, child and family homelessness) is not something you can take lightly, but the staff here have mastered the balance of work and play, of sincerity and silliness.  I can only hope that wherever I end up when I get home to Ontario is half as dedicated and welcoming as Inn from the Cold.