National Volunteer Week (April 6 – 12, 2014) is a time when volunteers of every position and description are honoured across the country. This is a time to think about the impact our volunteers have had at HIV Community Link (HCL).

As a person responsible for volunteerism at HCL, and as a volunteer myself, I love shinning the spotlight on volunteers and volunteerism because I don’t think we see the contribution volunteers make in our community every day.

We saw thousands of volunteers helping to support their neighbours after the flood, but we don’t see all the people stuffing envelopes, filing, making cold calls for auction items and prizes, answering phones, delivering hampers, or any one of a thousand volunteer jobs. Just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t leave an impact. The community would be an entirely different place if we didn’t have these volunteers.

I value and admire every person who chooses to volunteer. Volunteer AppreciationHowever, I particularly admire those who choose to give their valuable time to HCL. There is still so much stigma surrounding HIV and I believe it takes courage to stand up against that stigma and say “I want to make a difference here”. By doing that, we can break down the stigma as we educate ourselves and each other.

One of the most courageous volunteer opportunities we have at HCL is the GIPA program. Our GIPA (Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS) speakers are volunteers living with HIV who speak in the community about their lives and their HIV infection. Most people would rather die than stand in front of a room and speak about even the most innocuous topic – never mind speak to a room full of strangers about the most stigmatized of any disease or illness.

Sharing these stories helps us change the perception of HIV. These stories make a difference in our community by putting a face to HIV and showing that HIV is not scary. People living with HIV are not to be feared. They are people who work, volunteer, love, laugh, share and live every day with courage and strength.

This week, I want to applaud every one of our volunteers. I want to thank each one for their time, energy, commitment, spirit and compassion. I want to honour their courage. But more than that, I want them to know they are appreciated every day.

Tamrin Heardt, Senior Development Officer

If you would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities at HIV Community Link, please email volunteer@hivcl.org or call (403) 508-2500 ext 203.