Date of publication: 30/04/2020

Covid19. Canada. Older Volunteers Continue, Despite Lockdown

Council General International

For many years, Ellen Schryburt and Jean-Marc Bougie have been directly involved in helping those who are deprived. At age 70+, these volunteers became worried about the most vulnerable as soon as everyone had to go into lockdown, at the beginning of the pandemic. Undeterred, even from their own home, they rolled up their sleeves and are continuing to be devoted to their communities through those simple acts of kindness which matter the most.

When the government asked people to stay at home, Saint-Léonard’s deprived families suddenly lost access to the services provided by the Society of St Vincent-de-Paul (SSVP). Finding herself confined to her home, Ellen Schryburt, who has been involved in her local community since a very early age and who  previously held the role of  SSVP National President took matters into her own hands.  Within a very few days, the SSVP president of Saint-Léonard completely changed the way in which the organization operates in order to help those households who are in need. The whole sequence of actions has been rethought in order to continue providing for deprived households ; social distancing measures have been put in place ; lists of people to call upon and delivery routes have been set up. 

According to Ellen Schryburt, the face of poverty in her area has many faces : refugees, single mothers, social security recipients, older couples unable to cope etc. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented health crisis.

« Many people now feel like volunteering because they are not working but perhaps they will continue to do so at the weekend or in the evening. Maybe this experience will make them sympathetic towards people in need » says Ellen Schryburt.

At age 70, Jean-Marc Bougie is known among family and friends for his talents as a chef. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, he is no longer busy cooking meals but exerts himself on the phone. He phones people who are socially isolated three or four times a week, in order to ensure that they are well. Despite the fragile situation many of them find themselves in, the septuagenerian says he feels uplifted by the many stories he hears. 

« They tell me what is happening, how they feel. There is a lot of empathy in these exchanges, so much is being shared. Some of them have bad eyesight or mobility problems. Others are ill or isolated », says Mr Bougie.

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