Volunteer Profile – Gilbert Williams
When you speak with Gilbert Williams, one thing comes across quite clearly: he’s dedicated to supporting his community. With roots from Jamaica, he has always had a deep sense of community pride and responsibility. But more specifically, he is committed to helping children and youth.
His interest in helping kids in the community was given direction when a friend of his wife’s, who themselves volunteered with the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (CASO), mentioned the volunteer driver program to him.
“My wife had a friend who told me about the program. She knew a lot about it and thought I would be a good fit,” he explains. “After looking into it a bit more, I decided I should apply to be a volunteer.”
Gilbert started as a volunteer driver with CASO in 2006, and has never looked back. In his ten years of experience, he has offered support to not only many children, but also their families, both foster and biological.
His motivation has never changed. He sees being a volunteer driver as a concrete, tangible way to make a difference in the lives of children and youth.
“I would say that if you love kids and want to make sure they’re safe, then Children’s Aid is the best place to volunteer. Without a doubt.”
Being a volunteer driver with the CASO often means early mornings and late nights. Children need to get from their foster home to school, from a doctor’s appointment to a family visit. All these daily engagements make for long and busy days for the drivers, but also for the children.
Thankfully, volunteer drivers, who are usually assigned to one family over a long period of time, are able to offer children a sense of consistency. They provide a routine for kids who have hectic schedules and stability in the midst of uncertainty and change.
As a result of the many visits and appointments, volunteer drivers will often forge relationships with the children they support, earning their respect and becoming a shoulder to lean on.
Gilbert is no different. He has been assigned as the volunteer driver to some children for years. He sees the results of emotional family visits firsthand and does what he can to provide the child with a temporary sense of stability.
“The most challenging aspect of my role is to see how emotional the kids tend to be after a visit with their families,” he explains. “It can be tough because you never really know how it’s going to go.”
Making his car a safe place for children to return to after a visit with their family has always been a priority for Gilbert.
“They’re usually upset because they can’t go home with their parents. As their driver, I try to be a consistent figure in their life. The least I can do is to provide them with stability and safety.”
For all the emotionally difficult days, Gilbert also sees the children at their happiest. When a child is looking forward to seeing their family, or after a successful family visit, they are bursting with joy.
“Of course, what I love about the volunteer driver program is getting to see how happy the kids are to visit their families,” he says. “It’s so rewarding.”
Gilbert is committed to these children, through all of their ups and downs. His goal has always been to help children and youth in the Ottawa community and it’s safe to say that he’s doing just that.
Thank you Gilbert for your dedication to supporting children and youth in the community. Your generosity and commitment are essential to the services offered by CASO. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering, check out our website for current opportunities: http://casott.on.ca/en/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities/