Wellington, Guelph have victim aid volunteer shortage

Victim Services Wellington is looking for a group of mature candidates to help people who have unexpectedly become a victim of a crime or are experiencing a tragic circumstance.

'I’m on scene for a short amount of time and in that time I can make a difference, says longtime volunteer

The website for Victim Services Wellington says volunteers donate on average donate approximately 32,000 hours a year. (Victim Services Wellington)

Victim Services Wellington (VSW) is looking for a group of mature candidates to help people who have unexpectedly become a victim of a crime or are experiencing a tragic circumstance.

Volunteers are called to the scene if EMS, police and fire if Guelph Police or Wellington OPP, believe victims need practical help after an incident.

Heather-Jane Maurice has been volunteering with VSM for 17 years and says while it's not an easy job, but it is rewarding.

"You walk into disasters and half the time you don't know what you're walking into," said Maurice. "I'm on scene for a short amount of time and in that time I can make a difference."

Maurice has comforted a number of victims giving them back  "little bits of power back until they can take over."

That includes things from the simple job of brewing coffee or tea, to more complicated and emotional efforts such as waiting with members of a family while the body of a loved one is recovered by police from an accident scene. 

The volunteer role is not to be a counsellor but to help the victim who may have called 9-1-1 for a death by suicide, or domestic violence situation ensuring that person has access to shelters. (Victim Services Wellington)

Sign up

VSM normally has between 85 and 100 volunteers on their roster, but that number has dropped to 60 people.

Elizabeth Kent, the Executive Director of Victim Services Wellington said they are looking for a wide range of people and ages to cover various shifts, 24/7, either in the City of Guelph or Wellington County.

"We want to have a balance of people that have life experiences that may be retired that have flexible hours," said Kent.

Kent said they hope to train between 25 and 30 people at the end of April or early May.

Incidents volunteers may be called to:

  • Abuse and Assault.
  • Arson and Fire.
  • Bereavement.
  • Domestic Violence.
  • Accidents.
  • Suicide/Sudden Death.
  • Personal Injury.
  • Robbery.
  • Homicide.
  • Missing Persons.
  • Harrassment/Stalking.

What they do

Successful applicants are trained in crisis intervention and trauma and work with police, fire and EMS at the scene.

The volunteer role is not to be a counsellor but to help the victim who may have called 9-1-1 for a death by suicide, or domestic violence situation ensuring that person has access to shelters.  

"We may refer them to a shelter. We may do safety planning with them. We have a program where we can change their locks," said Kent. "If there is a serious safety concern we can put them up in a hotel if there is no room at the shelter."

Anyone interested can submit an application via the Victim Services Wellington website. Those selected will go through a standard interview process and the successful candidate will be trained online and in class. Once they've completed that they're teamed up with another volunteer and sign up for shifts.

"We wouldn't have an agency without our volunteers. Our volunteers provide a lot 24 hour support," said Kent.

About the Author

Joe Pavia

Reporter/Editor

Joe Pavia is a Reporter/Editor with CBC K-W 89.1 FM. He's normally heard weekdays on The Morning Edition but also covers a wide range of news and feature stories for both radio and web. Email him at Joseph.Pavia@cbc.ca Follow him on twitter @PaviaJoe1964