When pursuing a goal in life, we often get back what we put in.
Flavia Dunlop, a full-time residential councillor at the Tamir Foundation, has been volunteering with whatever organization needs help over the past year and a half. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has found that most organizations in Ottawa are stretched thin and are grateful for whatever help they can get.
“My goal is to join the Ottawa Police Services, and a big part of that application process is community engagement. So, it’s a priority for me to volunteer, but not only that - I enjoy it,” says Dunlop.
“I work overnights at the group home. So, when I finish my shift, I go to one of the volunteer things. I have set it up that I have some I do on a weekly basis, and others that I pick up throughout the week.”
At the beginning of her time as a volunteer, Dunlop worked a flexible food delivery shift with Meals on Wheels and she says it snowballed from there. The aspiring police officer now volunteers with more than 20 different organizations in Ottawa.
“They’re so easy to find. There’s so many of them that just need somebody to do something like a food bank delivery. Typically, you just sign up on the website and you can pick it up when it’s flexible for you,” says Dunlop.
“I initially only wanted to do one or two things a week and Meals on Wheels stood out pre-COVID. Then once the pandemic hit, there were so many places that needed help. I thought, if I can do one, I can do more.”
For Dunlop, she says crossing paths with people and getting to help and interact with them on a weekly basis is a position of privilege. Whether it be getting to chat with a senior community member during food delivery or interacting with the same people across different organizations, the experience has been entirely positive.
“It’s the intertwining and connections of people within the organizations; how they work together without even knowing that they’re working together. It’s nice to see we are connected. Even though we are a big city, we still cross paths,” says Dunlop.
“It’s nice to see everyone helping everybody, even during the pandemic. Even though people are isolated and can’t get out as much or can’t reach resources, they connect. It’s nice to see the connection.”
Dunlop is driven to help anyone who faces longstanding community issues that have been exacerbated by or have become a crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Noting the people that are stuck in abusive situations because of the lock downs, the food insecurity that many in Ottawa face, and the need for wellness checks for people with mental health disorders, Dunlop says that the issues that members of our community are facing are numerous, but as neighbours you can make a difference.
“I would say that if you’re able to get involved and help out your neighbours, get out and do it,” says Dunlop.
“It’s the most humbling feeling to know that you helped somebody. It’s very rewarding just to know that you got out and you’re able to make a difference in someone’s life and connect with them.”
After so many years of putting her ambitions to become an OPS officer on the back burner to maintain her employment and care for her family, Dunlop says now that she is involved with her community and all of the right support is in place from her family and the organizations she helps, it feels as though everything is coming together.
“For the mothers out there, for anyone who’s considering policing and thought they might be too old to get involved, because that’s what I thought for a long time, it is never too late to pursue a passion. To pursue a goal to go do something for a passion and not a pay cheque,” says Dunlop.
“That’s something I tell my kids all the time, push yourself to reach that goal, and you’re going to feel fulfilled at the end. That it’s not about the money, it’s about the passion, that drive that gets you moving every day.”
Anybody interested in volunteering is encouraged to contact organizations that speak to you or seek out postings on Volunteer Ottawa's website.
A photo gallery of Dunlop’s time volunteering can be seen on her Instagram, @Flaviadunlopp.