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Ottawa volunteer helping to lift fellow community members from abusive situations

“It’s a really unfortunate reality, and if someone is going through domestic abuse, there are so many organizations that can help. But we don’t know what we don’t know,” says Le.

While people in our community face unimaginable situations of abuse and discomfort in their homes, some are escaping these type of situations with a little help from their neighbours.

Charlie Le, an e-learning course designer in cyber security, says that by spending just a few hours during the week, month or year with Shelter Movers Ottawa can make a tremendous difference in the lives of people who feel trapped in their own homes.

“You hear about things like domestic abuse, and that’s it. You move on with your day, you don’t think about it again unless you’re experiencing it. Volunteering can give you that glimpse into the struggles that other people can be going through,” says Le.

“Volunteering with Shelter Movers Ottawa has humanized those issues in society and puts a face on it. It reminds you that these issues are real, and the victims are real.”

During the pandemic, many people were forced out of their schools, places of employment and shopping centres, the places many victims of domestic abuse would typically escape to; public spaces and micro communities that offer brief relief from their issues at home.

“It seems like the moves have really ramped up [in the last year]. I attribute it to us being in such proximity with our immediate household. Sometimes people can’t manage that very well, or an underlying issue bubbles up when people are stuck together for so long without any forms of venting or escaping,” says Le.

“After the move, you definitely see a sense of relief on their faces. During the pandemic there’s a lot more anxiety before it starts. By the time it finishes, relief would be the word to describe it.”

According to Shelter Movers Ottawa, the volume of moves that involve a police or security presence are rare, but under the circumstance of a tense situation where an abuser might still be present, they receive all the necessary support.

Through partnerships with several local companies, both large and small, Shelter Movers Ottawa responds to the need to move clients into or out of shelters, or from stressful situations into ones that give victims the ability to start fresh.

When Le first moved to Ottawa in 2016, he didn’t know how much time he was able to commit to volunteering. While settling into his new home and beginning to work he felt unable to make large commitments to volunteer work.

“The great thing about Shelter Movers and what I tell people who are thinking about volunteering is that they’re really flexible. The ways you can volunteer are also broad as well,” says Le.

“You don’t have to be a mover. Like if you have an injury or can’t lift heavy furniture. If those aren’t the capacity you can help with there’s plenty of ways you can help, like with coordinating or writing policies.”

Le says that the issue of domestic abuse is much more prevalent than he ever realized before his time at Shelter Movers Ottawa.

“It’s a really unfortunate reality, and if someone is going through domestic abuse, there are so many organizations that can help. But we don’t know what we don’t know,” says Le.

“Definitely reach out. If moving is something that is keeping them from escaping their situation, reach out to Shelter Movers and we will help in whatever capacity that we can.”

Le says many people put pressure on themselves to change the world through volunteering, and while he might not be able to end the issue of domestic abuse, he says one person's their efforts can relieve someone of their plight, and that makes a difference in the community.

“Every minute you spend helping someone, you’re providing exposure to that issue. You’re raising awareness and showing the people and animals that are directly affected that they matter,” says Le.

Anyone looking for more information on volunteering with Shelter Movers Ottawa can find out more by visiting their website.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, you can access information and resources by visiting the services portal here.

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