Heroes Among Us

Heroes among us, Integra’s new campain, recognizes outstanding work and generosity of volunteers in the community. Heroes among us presents the people who make a difference in our region. In the coming days and weeks you will see the faces and stories of these heroes. Soon, you will be able to submit a hero of your own to be recognized by the community. Keep a watchful eye, you will probably discover people you know.

Hélène et Alain Lalonde

Hélène and Alain have been together for over 36 years and are in their fifties. They are different from one another while sharing similar community ideals. Hélène is voluble, extraverted and brimming with energy whereas Alain is reserved and rather silent. His eyes speak volumes. Together they make a wonderful team helping our clients anytime they can. They tell us about their experience with the beneficiaries of Integra’s services.

Q: Why do you like doing volunteer work? What drives you?

A: Hélène lost a brother some time before meeting Claude, for whom she has a special place in her heart. “Claude fills a void. He is like a brother. I feel very good inside when I spend time with him.”

By nature, Alain is more reserved. It is through Hélène that he met Claude as he explains that “Hélène would bring Claude to the house. He managed to bring me out of my shell and became my friend. I got to know him and our friendship grew.”

According to Hélène, Alain is not only a friend to Jean-Pierre, he is also a positive masculine role model.

Q: How long have you been a volunteer with us?

A: We have been volunteering with Integra beneficiaries since 2005. I was the first volunteer in the Clarence-Rockland area, says Hélène. I used my interpersonal skills and word of mouth to encourage others in the community to volunteer with Integra.

A few months later, my husband Alain joined the team of volunteers.

Q: What activities do you do with our clients?

A: We are paired with Claude, a 50 year-old who has learning difficulties. We accompany him to all sorts of activities both in the community and outside the city. Jean-Pierre has taken part in several activities with us such as hockey games, mass, outings to restaurants and the movies, a variety of shows, festivals, family activities, and short trips. He celebrates New Year’s day with us. He is part of our family and even our brothers and sisters invite him to activities. He has won the hearts of our entire family! Last year, we organized a 50th birthday party for Jean-Pierre and some 60 people came. Claude was very happy.

Claude loves to sing… and to eat and so we often eat together, sharing his favourite meal which is sandwiches of every variety. He could eat them every day!

Hélène and Alain help out anytime they can be it with fundraising, the Christmas Angels campaign, volunteer transportation or any other community activity.

Q: Why did you decide to do volunteer work with our clients?

A: Hélène: I know several people who work for Integra and I can’t help but notice and admire the excellent work they accomplish and the kindness they bestow on our clients/friends in the community. These individuals/employees devote themselves body and soul to clients/friends. Bravo!

Life has been good to me and I want to give something in return even if it is in the form of bringing a smile or a ray of sunshine in someone’s day, preparing “a few sandwiches” or making a difference in the lives of friends who don’t ask for much.

A: Alain: It’s nice to see Jean-Pierre evolve. His social skills are improving and he is developing new interests. He takes better care of himself, is meeting new friends and has even started volunteering in order to help others and meet more people.

Jean-Pierre is improving with time. He has more self-assurance and interactions within the community are becoming easier. He is proud of having stories to tell.

When my friend Claude asks me: “Will you keep me for a long time?”

“Yes, J.P. As the song goes, friends are for life!”

Some say Claude is spoiled by having Hélène and Alain in his life. But they say he is simply being loved.

Q: What do you receive in exchange for your volunteer work?

A: That’s very easy to answer… Claudeis part of the family now. It is satisfying to see his relationships with others improve. We are fortunate in that our children are healthy and we are happy. We give to Claude and others give by example. As soon as people get to know Jean-Pierre they like him. The whole family receives a lot of joy from being with him… even our seven year-old niece gets as much as she gives in Claude’s company.

We see Claude’s progress and he is grateful for what we do. He appreciates us. We make a difference in his life, as does he in ours. It warms my heart, says Alain. Claude is funny, he likes to eat, and he helps out any time he can.

We would like to thank all of the workers for their excellent work.

Q: What message do you have for the community?

A: Hélène: I am kind-hearted. My mother always said to me: “Give and you shall receive… love, friendship and much more.” I am following her example.

A: Alain: We volunteer with Claude because we like it. If you have a little time, join us. Come along… get involved! It doesn’t cost much… and it yields big profits!

Samantha Godard

Samantha is a 19 year-old Social Work student at the University of Ottawa. At one with herself, she has a glamorous smile, adores children, and loves to share her time and her abilities with others. She talks about her enthusiasm for the child beneficiaries of Integra’s services.

Q: Why do you like doing volunteer work? What drives you?

A: I started doing volunteer work at the Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital in Grade 9 and I enjoyed the experience. My goal in life is to help people and make a difference in their lives. It provides me with work experience but I do it for the children. I also take a lot of pride in witnessing their growth and an improvement in their self-esteem.

I’ve always known I wanted to help people. When I entered university, I planned to work at the international level. Then I realized that children here need help too and I changed programs. I did it for me, but I wanted to help my “neighbours”, children in this area, and people in my community.

I believe that the people I help feel better about themselves. When we feel good about ourselves, then we can help others feel better about themselves. I would like for the children I help today to develop the desire to give tomorrow … “Give to thy neighbour.”

Q: How long have you been a volunteer with us?

A: I have been volunteering with Integra’s child beneficiaries since September 2009. I started volunteering with Eric and Diane as part of a Sociology course where we were given a choice between writing a 30-page paper or doing 30 hours of volunteer work. I chose volunteer work because I like to help. We became friends and I continued to see them.

Q: What activities do you do with our clients?

A: I work with children to foster their development. With Integra clients, I help two children with their homework.
Eric is seven and his sister Diane is nine. I bring them both to the library once a week for approximately an hour and a half each. I bring them separately as this gives them quality time with me. There are four children in the family and Mom is alone to care for them so she is very busy. When I come to pick them up, they feel privileged to have one-on-one time with an adult. This fosters their self-esteem.

During our homework time, it happens that they have difficulty concentrating. I make them laugh and talk about other things and then we continue after our little break. When the homework is done, we often play memory games.

We also do other social activities. Diane loves to dance and so do I. Occasionally I pick her up from her dance lesson and watch her. When people ask her who I am, she replies: “She’s my big sister!” Sometimes she tells me she’d like to see me every day. It’s heart-warming.

After a few months of support with his homework, I took Eric to the museum. That’s when I realized how much his reading had improved since I started working with him. When I first met him, he had difficulty reading simple sentences. At the museum he managed to read very complex paragraphs about different exhibits. I was very proud of him. My presence has made a big difference in his life and that fills me with joy.

In addition to helping Eric and Diane, Samantha and her father are involved with a young girl who needed support during her parents’ separation. “She doesn’t require the same level of support now but she still comes to our house. We are her second family and she is like a little sister.”

Q: Why did you decide to do volunteer work with our clients?

A: A bond of friendship developed between the children and I. It’s fun to help them. They apply themselves. They like it and they are both improving immensely.

Q: What do you receive in exchange for your volunteer work?

A: The best salary I can ask for is to help out and make a difference in people’s lives.
I am proud of what the children accomplish in part, thanks to my help.

Q: What message do you have for the community?

A: You don’t need a university degree or special attributes to do volunteer work. You need only have heart, generosity and listening skills.