What made you volunteer for Seasons Centre and how long have you been volunteering with them for?
As a teenager, I was a participant at Seasons Centre, it was a huge part of my life and I can definitely say that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without it. Once I had left, I had always wanted to come back as a volunteer, but I was to busy to do much of anything; after my grandfather passed away, I decided to change my life’s direction, part of that change was to volunteer more, and I couldn’t think of a better place to help then the place that helped me so much, Seasons. I’ve only been volunteering here for the past year, but I plan to help as much as I can, for as long as I can.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do in your volunteer role?
As a volunteer or “Buddy”, I work with the “Littles” that’s kids aged 5-12 who have had a loved one die. I have a primary group that meets Bi-Weekly, but I may be asked during the week to fill in if a buddy is sick or can’t make it to the group. The group is broken up into two main parts, A Grief Exercise, and Work-out Your Grief Time. During the Grief Exercise, we have a planed activity for the kids to take part in, this could be anything from drawing and talking about a memory or playing ring toss where we discuss an emotion depending what peg the ring falls onto. As a buddy, I help the kids express themselves and share my own experiences with grief. After the Exercise, the Littles get to work out their grief, this is where they get to play in the rooms upstairs like the Medical Play Room or Volcano Room, when the kids are playing the Buddies job is to, play with the kids! Making sure they’re staying safe and keeping an open ear if the kids want to talk about something.
How does the Medical Play Room play an important role in the healing process of grieving children?
The Medical Play Room is an amazing tool for the kids; a lot of the kids may have had their loved one in the Hospital for a long time, or even a short time, and they may have built a negative connotation towards hospitals and doctors offices. It’s important to make it so the kids are comfortable with medical help, if they ever need it, so getting to play in an area that looks so much like a real hospital room, with working equipment, they’ll be less scared if they ever need to go to a real one.
What benefits does the rice table have on the children who use the services at Seasons?
The Rice Table is something the kids absolutely love, it’s a table where the kids can burry different toys and there are even miniature coffins that the kids, can put the toys in and then bury. Some of the kids may have repressed or latent memories about the funeral or burial. Giving the kids a chance to recreate the situation may lead to new emotions or memories that may lead to an emotional breakthrough for the children.
As a volunteer who works closely with the children and youth, have you noticed any significant changes since the Smilezone project?
Working with the kids since the Smilezone project is great, I absolutely love the reactions on the kids faces when they see the new, updated colours and paintings is wonderful! The kids love the renovations and it gives them new opportunities to open up and express themselves.
How have the Smilezones changed or impacted your work?
The changes from Smilezone make my job as a buddy a lot more exciting, having the brighter colours and more friendly environment, makes it better for me and the kids to be comfortable and share our experiences.
In your opinion, how important are the surroundings and immediate environment to children coping with the loss of a loved one?
The immediate environment is incredibly important to the grieving process; having a bad environment will lead to bad behaviors and the children, or whomever is dealing with the death of a loved one, wouldn’t be able to grieve properly and safely. A lot of participants at Seasons Centre have had their lives shaken and their home life may be in complete disarray, having Seasons Centre be very much like a regular house is so comforting to the kids and incredibly important for the kids in their grieving process.