VOLUNTEER WEEK: Volunteering is good for the soul, says food bank volunteer

·4 min read

Volunteering has been a major component of Karlamarie’s life for many years, most recently with the Nicola Valley Food Bank where she spends several days per week checking in clients and filling food orders to ensure no Merrittonians go without nutritious food.

Karlamarie first became involved with the Food Bank through her education, which began with the Indigenous Human Services program and will culminate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.

“I’m taking a leave from my classes right now, and so I asked if I could stay on and they let me stay on, so I’m really, really pleased to be here,” said Karlamarie.

Last year, Karlamarie completed her practicum at the Nicola Valley Shelter, but found herself drawn to the food bank and the work that the volunteers and board did.

“Seeing people that go without and sacrifice every day for all kinds of reasons, seeing their needs being met is something I find really fulfilling,” said Karlamarie.

“I enjoy feeding people, really it doesn’t get more basic than that. It fills your heart to see people go away with a smile on their face knowing that they’re going to have a meal today, and there’s a lot of people that don’t. So, for me, that’s really important. Housing and food, those are basic, and if you don’t have one you can’t live your best life, not in any way, shape or form.”

It has been proven that helping others, in turn, helps yourself, as you are more likely to experience positive experiences and strong mental health by giving selflessly of yourself to others. This is particularly true for Karlamarie, who has struggled with depression throughout her life.

“Volunteering is good for me for a number of reasons,” said Karlamarie, who has also been a cadet, a Leo with the Lions Club and an SPCA officer, all as a volunteer.

“Like many people, especially right now during COVID when people are suffering, I suffer with depression. It’s something I’ve lived with for my whole life, and I happen to be quite low right now. So being able to get up and come to the Food Bank everyday really helps with my depression,” Karlamarie continued.

“We’re already isolated, we’re already being forced to social distance and all of these things, which as a social being is not conducive to good mental health for human beings in general. So, being able to come here gives me something more in my week, that I really need in order to function well.”

That being said, Karlamarie looks forward to a time when COVID doesn’t so severely impact the day to day lives of volunteers and those they interact with.

“Being able to be physically supportive through touch, shaking someone’s hand and making them feel warm and comfortable and welcomed,” said Karlamarie.

“Giving someone a touch on the arm to say we care about you, we care about your story, it was really nice to see you and hope you have a good week. That close interaction is the thing I think is missing the most, because that quick touch from one person to the next can change somebody’s whole outlook for the day. I would love to hug!”

COVID has also hampered the ability for non-profits to bring volunteers on board, as many are seniors or otherwise vulnerable during the pandemic.

“Absolutely I recommend volunteering in general, under our current COVID situation though, I don’t think this is the right time for a lot of people.

“My biggest message to people wanting to volunteer is don’t be disappointed if you’re turned down. It’s not because of you, it’s because of COVID.”

Despite the difficulties, Karlamarie doesn’t foresee a change in her passion for volunteering anytime soon.

“Volunteering is something that enriches my life greatly, and I will continue to do it,” said Karlamarie, who has also been impressed with the people of Merritt and their willingness to give and help out.

“I have been in Merritt for five years, I moved up from the coast and in spite of some hardships I faced moving here, I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Karlamarie said.

“Merritt is a beautiful city; the people here are wonderful. There’s a lot of really giving spirits here in Merritt, and I would love to encourage more of that.”

Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald