Making a Difference

by Vanessa Labelle

During the holiday season, we tend to pay special attention to those in need and ask ourselves how we might make a meaningful and positive difference in their lives. I have found that volunteering is as rewarding for me as it is for the recipients. When I made the choice to get involved in an organization, it was clear that I too would be getting a lot out of it, including much personal gratification. I chose a cause that touched families in need because I like to believe that I can make a small difference and contribute to improving their quality of life.

My Cause: The Réchaud-bus

The non-profit organization Réchaud-bus is the initiative of employees and retirees of Montreal's transit commission, the Société de Transport de Montréal. In essence, it’s a forer city bus turned into a meals-on-wheels type of canteen that provides hot meals to children in Montreal's disadvantaged neighbourhoods. You can see the Réchaud-bus winding through the streets of Montreal five days a week, distributing meals and snacks and creating a place for communities to gather. Each year, the organization visits about 60 schools and 40 youth centres, serving approximately 8,000 meals on board, amounting to roughly $400,000 worth of food. All of this is possible thanks to the funding of current and past STM employees. Volunteers work together to prepare and serve the meals to children who are, as a result, are healthier both physically and mentally thanks to a stomach full of nutritious food, allowing them to better pursue their education. In this way, Réchaud-bus makes a difference in their lives.

For me, it’s a rewarding activity that leaves me with a great feeling of gratitude for the life that I have. The smiles and visible appreciation of everyone I come in contact with makes this whole initiative a worthwhile and grounding experience.


How to get Involved and make a real difference

Since I believe that we all want to give our time and participate in the betterment of our communities, I have identified some points that may help you to get involved in more concrete ways.

• Schedule the time necessary

I suspect that when people claim they don't have time to give back is not always entirely true. If you really want to get involved in the community or help a cause close to your heart, you will find the time. You just need to manage your schedule and to identify the time slots you can dedicate for the cause. 

• Invest in a cause in which you believe

Whether it's a museum, a hospital, a community garden, the Red Cross, or the SPCA, the people in need will be all the more grateful, and you will feel it!

• Choose a cause in which you have an interest

This follows from the same principle: why not combine business with pleasure and make your choice according to your interests, passions, and favourite pastimes so as to enjoy yourself while you are volunteering?

• See the concrete results of your investment

Within hours of volunteering, you will be able to see just how much difference you have made, which will be just as rewarding for you.

You will also be able to develop new skills and gain new experience to help you achieve your professional and personal goals.

• Set an example

Talk to your family and friends about your volunteer work in order to “spread the gospel” and influence them to participate in an activity. You will be recognized for your involvement.

If time is really an obstacle, you could instead make a donation to one of the various organizations in demand during the holiday season. I especially like the work done by Opération Père Noël. In December of each year, they recruit elves who buy gifts for children living in youth centres (DPJ) or who are under the guardianship of the state and would receive nothing were it not for this organization. The recipients are boys and girls from a few months to 17 years old. Since 1995, over 33,000 children have experienced the magic of Christmas thanks to this community!

Vanessa Labelle
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Vanessa Labelle

As a graduate of the Culinary Nutrition Academy of Toronto, Vanessa Labelle spends her time as a nutrition coach while also teaching her clients how to cook and updating her blog Pomme et Sucre.


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