Each month, we feature one of our dedicated, warmhearted volunteers. This month, we are celebrating Celena Ulledal! Since joining us in 2016, Celena has provided vital support to our clients in many capacities but most notably, she has been a constant at our weekly Coffee and Conversation program.
One of our Volunteer Coordinators, Jasmine Doran, says Celena stands out. Jasmine describes Celena’s ease in connecting with clients who have varying degrees of English proficiency, the value that her practical nature bring our clients, and her deep capacity for empathy. “Like many of our Coffee & Conversation volunteers, Celena has developed a ‘fan club’ i.e. a group of clients that will seek her out each week,” Jasmine said. She develops true friendships and provides real support.
When we spoke with Celena, we asked what has kept her coming back to GGP for almost 8 years. She said, “Seeing the positive results each week with our clients improving in their English. Their enthusiasm and pride motivates me to keep coming back and help them build on their successes.”
One of her favourite aspects of working with newcomers is finding innovative ways to bridge the language barrier. She recalls a woman who conveyed her former life as an artist solely through photos on her phone and a former soldier who used body language alone to describe his experiences. “I have changed and grown as I exposed myself to other cultures and met new people with their unique ideas and experiences. I am a student of life and volunteering at GGP is my favourite classroom,” Celena said.
Celena would like to see more native-born Canadians taking time to learn about newcomers but she is hopeful for the future: “I actively educate others when the opportunity presents itself. I feel it a privilege and an honour to work with newcomers and together we will build a better and safer world.”