Sophie Connor had begun work on her education degree when the pandemic hit. Faced with an uncertain future, heaps of schoolwork and a lot of time at home, Connor was interested when she saw a request for virtual volunteers at St.Amant. “I had always known about St.Amant and thought it was a great time to get involved,” she shares.
Her first volunteer task was supporting the Mad Science program, which was held over Zoom as an activity for those supported by St.Amant, who live in many homes and locations across the province. “I’m very passionate about sciences, and I’m currently doing my practicum as a science teacher,” Connor says. “It was so fun to be involved with these virtual lessons. Sometimes I’d just demonstrate, but I also tried to find experiments that could be easily done at home, so everyone could participate.”
Eventually, St.Amant also began a PALS program – a volunteer matching program that helped connect those receiving services with a new friend. “And that’s how I met Marda,” Connor says with a smile. “For the first year, we could only meet through Zoom or phone calls and when the restrictions lifted, we got to finally meet in person.”
Marda, known in the St.Amant community for her boundless enthusiasm, has become a good friend. “I go to her house every Monday and we hang out,” explains Connor. “We do puzzles, work in the garden, go for walks or do some baking. Marda has a roommate and sometimes we do a girl’s night where we paint each other’s nails.”
Like every friendship, Connor and Marda have gotten to know each other better through the years and grown to appreciate each other’s gifts. “I don’t even know how to describe Marda!” exclaims Connor. “She’s so fun and positive, and always, always so happy. But she has some sass to her, and a bit of an attitude sometimes that I love. She’s always joking around and pulling pranks.”
When the two women eventually met in person, Connor was excited to meet Marda’s turtle, which they had often talked about during their virtual hang outs. “I asked about the turtle, and she let me in on the joke,” remembers Connor. “There was no turtle, she was just messing with me the whole time! She laughed and laughed! Marda is honestly just the best.”
Connor admits that volunteering will certainly help her career opportunities after she graduates, but that this friendship means a lot more to her than that. “I look forward to Mondays,” she says. “Right now, it’s a busy, stressful time where I basically go to work, go home, do more work and sleep. I get to look forward to one day a week where I know I’m going to go somewhere, have a good laugh and a good time.”
Marda loves their time together, too. “The other day, we were working on a puzzle together and she stopped and looked at me,” remembers Connor. “She told me she loved me, with her big smile. Her staff tell me that she likes to stick close to home on Mondays in case I come early. I just really enjoy her presence and she seem to enjoy mine. It’s just never, ever a bad time with Marda.”
If you’d like to make a new friend at one of our network organisations, please click here to find out more about volunteer opportunities.