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Meet Rick, A Canada InfoNet Mentor

Photo of RickCanada InfoNet’s veteran mentor Rick McCallion, leader in IT change, who has been supporting our program for over a decade contributed to this newsletter by sharing his experience and highlighting the importance of volunteering.

During these pandemic times, the one thing that stands out to me is something that I have sometimes taken for granted – the importance of connections. In the last few weeks of self-isolation and social distancing, I look around at my friends, family and neighbours and I can see how we are all yearning for those social connections. What was so easy just a couple of months ago, now takes planning, rigour and diligence, and even then, it is never just quite the same. Fortunately, now that we have the odd beautiful day, I see how my neighbours, properly social distanced, flock to the courtyard of our condominium complex just to be able to connect with each other. Now, more than ever, the importance of these social connections is painfully evident.

 As we come out of National Volunteer Week, I’ve been reflecting on my 11 years a mentor in the JVS Toronto Canada InfoNet program and it’s role and impact on connections – global connections.

The primary reason why I volunteer has always been to somehow make a difference in the little slice of the world that I occupy – to leave some type of a footprint behind.

But why did I choose this particular volunteering opportunity where there are countless tens of thousand volunteer opportunities across Canada?  Primarily, it was because Canada InfoNet mentoring program is facilitated online and it’s on a schedule convenient to me. This was a significant benefit. I’ve done the traditional volunteering in the past, but there was something about the convenience of this specific opportunity that spoke to me.

I used to refer to this volunteer program as “virtual” but as I have mentored over the years, somehow I don’t think that virtual is quite the right word. Although the communication method of the mentoring program is virtual, it is really much more than that.  It’s real and it’s personal. I’ve been so lucky to have maintained connections with my mentees over the years and this connection has made this program far more than “virtual”. It’s tangible and it makes a difference. Not only in the lives of my mentees (hopefully!) but in mine as well.

I see the children of mentees being born in Canada, children that may not have had the same opportunities back home. To see these families grow and flourish here gives me tremendous satisfaction. And when I see mentees become Canadian citizens, and especially when I see that they too have been so impacted by the program reach out to apply to become a mentor, that fills me with pride. Not pride in myself, but rather my indescribable pride in the mentees who have taken a leap of faith in Canada, have flourished and are now trying to pay back to others wanting to relocate to Canada.

Connections. I see now how important connections are to me.  When restrictions are eventually lifted, when we don’t have to be so cautious about who, where, how, for how long and from what distance, when all of these are an afterthought, I’ll always try to keep in mind how precious these connections are and how important they are. If nothing else, one of the things that I’ve learned from the state of the world right now is to appreciate and value the ability that I have to connect with those that I love.

Connections transcend geographic or political borders. How can we be part of a society without connections? And more importantly, how can we have a society without looking for opportunities to help others?

I’m very grateful to JVS Toronto for their CanadaInfoNet mentoring program. Now more than ever, I cherish the connections that I’ve made through this program.