Giving back and empowering victims is at the root of volunteering for Victim Services for Kawartha Haliburton program says a local resident.
Marc Jones 41 of Haliburton finds a great deal of fulfillment in volunteering since he joined this year in April.
Jones an auxiliary officer for the Haliburton Highlands OPP for the past two years is compelled to help people but his volunteering also stems from the goal to give back to his community.
“I also saw the need for volunteers. I want to do what I can to make our community a better place” he said.
Before he joined Victim Services Jones only knew in theory what Victim Services did through his police volunteering. Where his auxiliary work finished was where the volunteers with Victim Services would begin.
“I would see Victim Services volunteers responding to these crisis situations and I would see how compassionate they were and gave their time and how well organized and how vital they were to the assistance. That's what brought me into it” he said. “Really I wanted to better myself too and do the things I saw them doing.”
The Victim Services program provides immediate support for victims of crime and can offer financial assistance to victims of violent crime when not available through other sources. It will assist victims of serious assault sexual assault homicide human trafficking domestic violence hate crimes and attempted murder. Every volunteer is screened and receives at least 45 hours of training both online and in class. Volunteers are required to provide a comprehensive report following incidents.
Jones considers his work with Victim Services and the OPP as the “full circle” of service essential to helping victims move forward from tragedy. It gives him satisfaction to not just respond as an auxiliary officer but to also help following an incident of “tragic circumstances.”
Anyone who is apprehensive about volunteering because of the nature of the incidents that require Victim Services can be assured the training and support are excellent he said.
“If you have the passion to help people just don't be afraid of the circumstances you'll find yourself in because the training is really good” he said.
The six weeks of training is thorough and the program will follow-up with volunteers who always attend scenes in pairs.
“There are support mechanisms. You're never on a call by yourself. You're always with someone who is experienced. You have a team leader” he said.
The Haliburton County employee and auxiliary officer is one of just three volunteers for Haliburton. With a large geographic area to cover it’s important to have many volunteers available to ensure victims get help promptly.
“It's not easy without having quite a few people to draw from” he said.
Victim Services executive director Laura Proctor who has 16 years of experience in outreach with victims most recently in Peterborough's Victim Services said the program isn't anything without the volunteers.
“Our on-scene volunteers are paramount because we are a tiny team of two frontline staff and myself. We provide support 24-7 so we get calls all hours of the day so it’s our volunteers that really alleviate staff from responding 24-7. We just couldn't possibly run the program without our volunteers” she said.
There are 22 volunteers who fall into two categories: retired social workers and emergency services professionals such as firefighters and police officers or students and individuals who are eager to learn and build their resumes for careers. Jones is working towards a career in law enforcement.
“It's probably one of the best things you can do” he said.
Proctor said the key characteristics for volunteers is they are committed detailed caring understanding empathetic and unafraid to “walk with somebody during probably the most upsetting and darkest moments.”
She adds there is a push to increase volunteers in Haliburton County because of the 30000 additional residents who make the area home for the summer.
“We obviously see an influx of crime and tragic circumstances with all the lakes. An increase of car accidents on Highway 35 there. In the summer months there is a higher rate of accidents … than the winter” she said.
Proctor said the program is key to the support for victims.
“We make the police officers' jobs a lot easier. A lot of the time Victim Services goes unnoticed. We slide in on scene and slide out and do some of the hard work. I think it is really important to have somebody there that is knowledgeable for victims” she said.
Originally from Huntsville Jones moved here with his wife more than three years ago from Mississauga. He said people with a background in emergency services such as a police officer or firefighter are ideal because of their history dealing with crisis. However anyone who cares about others can be an effective volunteer.
“As long as you have compassion and care about people it's pretty much all you need really” he said.
OPP liaison officer Const. Tim Negus who has been with the OPP since 1996 said Victim Services carries on with the care and support to victims after the police leave a scene.
“If they need some additional support that we can't offer them at a policing level then we can turn to Victim Services. They can support them in the immediate crisis but they can also refer them to additional services and resources. They can help them through the time of need” he said. “It's all geared to helping people get through the crisis and get back on their feet successfully.”
To become a volunteer contact client services co-ordinator Whitney Rickard at 705-878-5505 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information or to access the application form see website: victim-services.org