Two years ago, after being introduced to the volunteering community through Carleton University, Sarah Ratcliffe spent last year’s Thanksgiving with her mother, helping to feed the homeless at Ottawa Mission.
Ratcliffe, 23, is a student of psychology at Carleton, where she volunteered in a clothing room. “Around that time, I worked at a place that got a lot of marginalized people just as regular customers,” she says. “I gradually got to know them and I began to talk to different people and learned about the housing crisis and homeless issues in Ottawa.”
Ratcliffe has been volunteering at Ottawa Mission for more than a year. “I help out in the kitchen, so I prepare food, by chopping vegetables or seasoning meat, making sandwiches, and sometimes serving the people.”
She usually tries to volunteer during the weekends due to her school and job.
Her favourite memory at the Mission is bringing in her mother on Thanksgiving 2020, “I got to introduce her to the people I volunteer with and we stayed at the Mission for the entire day helping them to prepare,” she says. “We figured it would be a good way to help others and still spend time together, celebrating Thanksgiving by giving to the people.”
Mohamed Abdi Aziz, a cook at the Mission, says that volunteering is important more than ever now, “Specifically in shelters, the need for help is all there,” he says. “I was really happy when Sarah came with her mom, they helped to slice around 20 bins of turkey,” says the 26-year-old. Aziz has been a part of the Mission for three years.
Ratcliffe also helps in fundraising and organizations like the Girls and Boys Club, Relay for Life, Glad Cleaning the Capital and The Salvation Army.
“I want to be able to work with people, I love to introduce people,” she says. “My goal is to do good on a larger scale. It is important to me that every person gets to live a nourished life.”
She participated in the “Coldest Night of the Year” fundraiser on February 20, 2021. “This is a walk that happens all over Canada to support local homeless charities in various cities,” says Ratcliffe. “It raises money for those experiencing homelessness, hurt, and hunger. It’s happening virtually this year because of the pandemic, so my co-workers and I raised money and we walked, on our own, to raise awareness about the hardships faced by the people with no homes.”
Coordinator of Volunteer and Community Engagement Services Jake Harding says that Ottawa Mission provides an opportunity to help the most vulnerable. “I simply put them in a position and get out of the way,” says Harding, “Sarah has always been a huge help and a joy to work with, she stands out by doing the work before her to help others.”
Ratcliffe says she cannot wait to contribute to society through her profession, “I want to start fundraising and get involved with other organizations that support marginalized and underrepresented people.”