Wednesday, 24 October 2012 15:37

Swift Current's Victims Services personnel recognized for sacrifice, diligence

Written by  Jessi Gowan
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Wayne Johnston addresses crowd. Wayne Johnston addresses crowd.

Local Victims Services volunteers were recognized at an appreciation dinner hosted by Southwest Victims Services on Oct. 19 in Swift Current.

The evening was a chance for the organization to thank their dedicated volunteers for their hard work throughout the year.
“If we didn’t have volunteers, we wouldn’t have programs like this in Saskatchewan,” explained Program Co-ordinator Wayne Johnston. “They make the program work by providing us with their time, experience, and knowledge, and allow the RCMP to focus on investigations while volunteers are looking after the victims. That’s a huge time saver, and really important for the victims.”
Finding volunteers is an ongoing challenge for Southwest Victims Services. Since the program covers the largest amount of area as any other in the province, volunteers are needed throughout the region. It’s not an easy process to become a volunteer, however.
“We need to make sure that we have the right people, and that can take a while,” Johnston admitted. “Once someone has expressed an interest, they need to go through a lengthy security clearance process by the RCMP. That can take up to maybe three months. Once you get past that, there is a 40-hour training course with provincial speakers, to make sure you are ready.”
Since volunteers are dealing with the private lives of victims and their families, it’s important that they show respect, confidentiality, dignity, and compassion. The organization is careful about ensuring volunteers are right for the program.
“For a lot of these volunteers, it’s the satisfaction that comes from the job,” Johnston explained. “Some of them have gone through horrible experiences of their own, and they know how important it is to have someone there for you. It’s a great way to give back to the community, and people really believe in it.”
Many volunteers have been with the program for years — up to 15 years for one. Currently, the oldest local volunteer is 80 years old, and the youngest is only 19. The average age of a volunteer is between late 40s to early 60s, and about 90 per cent of volunteers are women. They come from varied backgrounds — retired nurses, schoolteachers, social workers, mental health workers. Some are mothers who are raising families, many are semi-retired or retired people who rely on their own life experiences to help others.
“We’ve been going for about 20 years now in Swift Current alone, and we make a point to show our volunteers how much we appreciate what they do,” Johnston said. “Some of these people get involved with some really heavy duty stuff — whatever the RCMP is involved with. Everyone likes to be patted on the back, and a huge part of my job is staying in daily contact with the volunteers. We are like one big family — they’re all like my kids, and I have to look after them.”
(Note: due to the confidentiality of the organization, no volunteers were named or interviewed in this story).

Read 13308 times Last modified on Thursday, 25 October 2012 15:18