My name is Carole-Ann Filiatreault, and I have been a volunteer at A Woman’s Place (AWP) for about two years now. It was back in 11th grade when my passion for helping women and my feminist side really started shinning. I had joined a club at school called “Girl Up” which taught me how important empowering girls and women is for our future. That is when I started looking for volunteering opportunities related to helping women which led me to AWP.
I felt so lucky that I could have a direct contact with these women and their kids that I signed up for pretty much any task they had for me! I first started volunteering in the shelter with the kids, and I just fell in love. I truly believe that I learned more about myself in the shelter than anywhere else. It is a place where judgement is absent and love reigns. I loved it too because no matter what was happening in their lives, the women and children always found a way to show their appreciation.
The second thing I joined was the Young Adult Advisory Board (YAAB). Together we worked to make the lives of girls and women better. Not only did we build on each others ideas, we also got the chance to find our voice and freely give out our ideas and opinions on problems and possible solutions. What I also enjoyed was that we also helped others (for example, making a soldiers’ day by writing them letters, or making summer baskets for the families of children fighting cancer through the Kisses for Kyle Foundation).
My third engagement with AWP was being an intern last summer where I worked with The Empowerment Project, the Peace Works Camp, and again at the shelter. I cannot say which one I liked the most or the least because they were all important to me for different reasons. Each represents a different way of helping the community. However, my favorite part of all three is touching people’s lives.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to help others. When I turned 12, I learned that my new dream was to go help others in other countries that may be less fortunate than I was.
My family would always tell people that I wanted to “save the world”. Back then I would smile and shyly turn away but a few months ago things changed. In October of 2014, I finally trusted myself enough to reach for my dream and I joined a team of hard working young adults on a humanitarian project to the Dominican Republic. On one hand I wanted to make a change, a contribution to society one may say, while on the other I really wanted to see if humanitarian work was really something I wanted to do as a future career.
Truth be told, when I signed up I did not even know where the Dominican Republic was. I also did not know the amount of will power and strength I would need to get this project done. Not only did it demand perseverance, it also demanded I look deep into myself. Before I left I was repeatedly told that it was amazing that I was going to “make the lives of others better.” Perhaps I brought them a few smiles and laughs, but in the end – I am the one who benefited the most from this experience. Being engaged as a youth does not mean changing others, but rather accepting the differences you may have with them and still working together for a brighter future.
Let me tell you a little about the Dominican Republic. In this country, there is no middle class. There are a handful of people that are extremely rich while the rest of the population lives in poverty with no political power whatsoever. Yet, this fact has never stopped the citizens to fight for their rights and what they believed they deserved. Arriving as a stranger in this country I did not know how warm of a culture they have! Here is a perfect but also sad example. In a village called El Cercado, there are about 50 houses in which a quarter of them have no money to survive because they are too old or unable to work. Amazingly, their community supports them in every way they can by bringing food or money into the household. This teamwork is a perfect example of civic engagement because the people are working towards ending an issue that is present in their lives.
Once you realize the inner power to make a difference in something you care about then the hardest part is done. By times you may feel discouraged but at the by the end of the day the most important part of being engaged in the world is believing in yourself and understanding what reasons you decide to live for. I choose to live so I can make the future better. What are your reasons?
I still cannot believe that it was a year ago that I moved back to Canada. I still am becoming a better person through AWP because I never stopped believing in its value and that is why I always return to this organization when I visit because the friendships that I have built with other members of AWP and other volunteers are truly forever. Overall, my passion was set on fire because of AWP and nothing can nor will turn off those flames that keep me going.