Cornwall Ontario — Kylee LeClair writes: Two years ago, I worked with the Agape Centre for my grade 12 co-operative education, and was exposed to how hunger truly affects our community. It opened my eyes to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was at a loss for what to do after high school, when my teacher suggested looking into becoming a social service worker. A spark arose in me and I was able to make sense of how I could apply my passion for helping others to my life.
I chose to do my college field placement this fall again with the Agapè Centre because it was where it all started for me. I want to share that experience, because I think it will help people to see another side of the agency.
The clientele they deal with is primarily those who I truly feel need the help. Poverty is a huge social issue and has impacted a lot of lives in Cornwall. The center provides basic needs like food and clothing to the community, which are much needed. Poverty and hunger can be a struggle in a person’s life, and they may feel ashamed of this. The centre provides them with a friendly support, where they can come and feel as though life is not so bad.
I spent 3 days a week for 4 months at the Agapè Centre, and I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of different clients and hear their stories.
The most significant moment that has stuck with me happened was one day while working in the soup kitchen. I had grabbed the client’s meal ticket and gave her a friendly hello. She responded by saying “thank you.” As I proceeded to ask her why, she explained to me the importance of the soup kitchen in her life. She said “Without this place, I would not be able to eat a full meal a day. The meals that Jayne (the head cook) prepares for us never fail me. They are always nutritious and very filling. I would starve without this kitchen, and for that, I thank you.” This moment will forever be with me. It really gave me a sense of joy that we were able to provide this woman with such happiness over a plate of food.
I’ve also had the chance to work in all departments of the centre – the soup kitchen, food bank, client services, thrift store, sorting, etc – and have learned how it functions together. Each different area is essential for the whole to flow well.
For example, did you know the money the thrift shop makes is fed into the soup kitchen and the food bank? If it weren’t for the community’s support by shopping in the store, there would be a lack of funding for the other services.
Working in the back sorting area allowed me to see the process of how they decide what stuff is in good shape for the store and what is not. The work almost seems endless, but the ladies in the back are very welcoming, and do an excellent job at working through the donations and getting the store stocked.
I really liked working in the reception desk and being the front line person. Everyone comes there – clients, volunteers, staff, donors – and I got to meet so many people. I liked talking with donors about why they give to the centre. I got to see a different side.
I was involved with the daily services, but I also got to take on some interesting projects of my own. I was given the opportunity to write a client survey for the food bank with my supervisor. We wanted to know how we can best serve the clients, so we brainstormed what questions needed to be asked. I created the survey and met with clients as they came in for their food bank appointments. Next semester I will get to analyze the results and recommend changes. It’s something the clients appreciated because sometimes they don’t feel like their voices are being heard, and this was an opportunity for them to give input. It was empowering.
I also worked at creating a mini cookbook that we hope will be provided in the food bank with each order, if the demand is present. It will have recipes for the basic items clients get in the food bank, the food guide, and a chart of the best seasons to buy fruits and vegetables. This booklet could be an asset to the clients because it contains the basic information about easy ways to eat healthy and cook on a small budget.
During my time at Agapè I have had endless encounters with the clients about the appreciation they have for the centre. There has not been a day where I have not heard “thank you, I really appreciate the help.” For this reason, I will always give my support to the Agapè Centre.
I could not be happier with my choice for field placement. It has assured me that this is the right area to be seeking a career in. I was losing my spark at the start of my second year, but being back in the place that opened my eyes to my passion of helping others reignited the spark.
I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to help the community. I have developed a drive to make a positive impact in the client’s lives, and I gained the skills necessary. I sincerely love what I am doing.
I look forward to continuing with the Agapè Centre for my second semester, and I’m excited about the new learning experiences I will encounter.