April 14th, 2023
Volunteering as a Board Member
During the winter of 2018, I took my 2-year-old daughter for a checkup after we had some concerns with her health. Later that year, she was diagnosed with severe Autism (autism spectrum disorder – ASD). As a new parent and someone who didn’t know anything about Autism, I had this sudden rush of different emotions from feeling alone and confused, to just heartbroken. We started calling around immediately. I spoke to many groups and organizations in both the public and private sectors related to autism. While I cannot discuss the many good experiences I had with most of them, one organization in particular struck a chord, and that was Waterloo Region’s Extend-A-Family!
EAFWR is one of the region’s leading nonprofit organizations, dedicated towards uplifting the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities, recognising their involvement, and striving for their inclusion in the community. As a volunteer board member on their governance committee and the general board, this servant mandate of EAFWR has been visible in their mission, vision, values, programs, mandate, and policies.
I learned firsthand how EAF truly endorsed and fulfilled its vision of “a community where everyone belongs and is valued for their contributions.” Yet, what had really reeled me in to volunteering with EAFWR was the passion and warmth of their phenomenal direct support workers. It is hard to find words for how supportive and informative they were and are. They told me everything will be just fine! Their guidance and support have been of immense importance to my family, and I would like to take this opportunity to applaud and acknowledge my support coordinator, Kelly McMillan. In 2020, I decided it was time to pay it forward with the skills I developed over the many years of schooling at the University of Waterloo and having held positions, such as being a data analyst with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).
As part of the Board we hold four to five big meetings a year where the overall direction and strategy of EAFWR is discussed. In these meetings we examine balance sheets and progress of the finance, human resource, and governance committees. On the governance committee, where my expertise lives, our work revolves around bylaws and policies. One project I initiated and oversaw on the committee is to figure out if it is worthwhile for EAF to own or lease its main facility in Kitchener. Besides all the seriousness, volunteering with EAF has been much fun.
Would you believe it if I told you I enjoyed a fabulous dinner with one of the founding families of EAF! That was a night to be remembered as I sat alongside a wonderful pioneering couple involved in EAF for over 40 years. I have attended networking events and have attended online seminars for continued learning and professional development. And while on the topic, I have borrowed a tool or two from their Library of Things. EAFWR has been a great place to be with so many great people to work with and learn from.
If you are someone who has enjoyed this story and want to share your gifts with your community, don’t hesitate to join our team of volunteers. There is so much we can learn from you and there is much you can learn from us.
Governance Committee member