The streets of downtown Ottawa have been eerily quiet for much of the past year. Missing are the Office Workers that worked in the buildings that line the streets, the Restaurant workers, the retail store workers. Missing are those people that helped our street friends survive by donating small amounts of money, a coffee, or even a bite to eat as they used to walk past them on their way to and from their offices or shops.
At Ottawa Innercity Ministries we have been busy as we try and pick up as much of the shortfall as we can to help our friends survive and thrive. OIM is back to having volunteer teams on the streets of Ottawa 7 nights a week and sometimes having two or even three teams out on a single day. Teams are serving anywhere from 30 to more than 60 people in an outing. While we provide emergency food, clothing, and toiletries the most important thing we do is come along side our friends on the street and provide a bit of companionship. We train our volunteers to sit for a minute and listen to their stories if they are willing to share it with us.
Because of the Red Vests, and our constant presence on the streets our volunteers are able to gain a little bit of their trust faster than if they were strangers that just happened to stop and try and talk. On Sunday evening past I took out a new husband and wife team and watched in awe as they were able to connect with our street friends. I marveled at how they were able to draw people’s stories out with their genuine concern and compassion, and I was thrilled how appreciative OIM’s new volunteers were that they were able to make a difference in the lives of the people they just met.
Many of our volunteers do what they do because they get so much Joy out of helping others! It strengthens your Faith in God when you hear the appreciative comments from those they come along side. It reminds you to be thankful for your life when you shed a tear with someone who decided to share their story; or they perhaps share a laugh and reminisce about times past. Spring makes it much easier to take your time and remember it is not about the transaction of giving a sandwich and a pair of socks, it is about coming alongside someone and making the invisible, know that they are visible. If this sounds like something that would interest you, please contact us today to discuss volunteer opportunities.
~Brian, Volunteer Coordinator