Ricki Miles has volunteered all over the world.
In the 1990s, the River Heights resident spent time in Vienna, Austria, teaching computer skills to teachers at a private school, and in 2008, she volunteered at a daycare in a poor suburb of Quito, Ecuador.
Miles' latest international trip took her to Sri Lanka this past July, where she volunteered with Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW). Founded in 1970 by Murray and Margaret Dryden, the Toronto-based organization distributes bed kits to children in countries around the world.
While in Sri Lanka, Miles volunteered with a team of five other Canadians to distribute 4,000 bed kits in six locations in the central and northern areas of the country.
"I volunteer because I think everybody should, if they're in a time of their lives when they've got the time, energy, resources, and passion to do it," said Miles, a former elementary school teacher who is now self-employed as a corporate computer trainer.
It's a win-win situation, she said.
"The people you're helping out get something, but I think you as a volunteer get tremendous benefit -- just knowing that you're helping people in some small way."
Miles found out about SCAW from one of her clients. The organization appealed to her because she enjoys working with children. She was also impressed with the fact 100 per cent of the donations SCAW receives go directly to the bed kits. Administrative costs for the organization are covered by a legacy fund the Drydens established.
The contents of the bed kits vary from country to country depending on local needs. The kits Miles distributed in Sri Lanka consisted of a mosquito net, mat, pillow, pillow case, bedsheet, pyjamas, towel, two clothing outfits, two pairs of socks, a pair of shoes, a backpack, five scribblers and a water bottle. All of the items came from Sri Lanka.
Miles says the group was often met by school marching bands and dancers, as hundreds of children gathered, eagerly anticipating the distribution of the kits.
Seeing how happy the kits made the children was a highlight for Miles. Before distributing the kits, the team would hold up each item so the children could see what was in the package they were about to receive.
"They'd just be cheering wildly, like on a game show when you win the big prize."
The experience highlighted for Miles how lucky she is as a Canadian -- with abundant resources and access to free health care. In Sri Lanka, that sort of safety net does not exist: "We take for granted that we have all these things in place. It's always an eye-opening experience to see how other people live."
A life-long volunteer, Miles says she is planning to participate in another trip distributing bed kits with SCAW, pointing out a $35 donation covers the cost of one bed kit. Anyone interested can learn more by visiting www.scaw.org.
"I was very impressed with the way (SCAW is) so smoothly run and very well organized. Just seeing first-hand what they do and how it's appreciated, I was pretty emotional the whole time I was there. I would love to do it again," said Miles.
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THE following is a list of volunteer opportunities for Winnipeg and surrounding areas. For more information about these listings, please contact the organization directly. Volunteer Manitoba does not place volunteers with organizations, but we can assist you in finding a volunteer opportunity. To learn more about our programs and services, please visit www.volunteermanitoba.ca or 204-477-5180.
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English OnLine is looking for a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident to assist a landed immigrant or pre-arrival newcomer on arrival to Canada. As a Settlement E-Volunteer, you will have 10 one-on-one sessions via Skype with a newcomer. Information: email@example.com.
Minds in Motion assistant -- Alzheimer Society of Manitoba is seeking someone to help the co-ordinator set up, greet participants, assist with program activities, and to take down and clean up after program activities. Must be able to develop a rapport with participants and be physically able to set up and take down tables and chairs. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.alzheimer.mb.ca/
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