Debra Kutcher has volunteered in Kenya and Thailand, but St. Boniface is where you’ll find her helping out these days.

Opinion

Debra Kutcher has volunteered in Kenya and Thailand, but St. Boniface is where you’ll find her helping out these days.

Kutcher is a patroller with the St. Boniface Citizens on Patrol Program. The group aims to keep the neighbourhood safe by acting as extra eyes and ears for the community.

Volunteers patrol regularly by foot and by car based on their availability. They look for things like damaged property and people in distress or danger. They then contact municipal services such as 311 or the police department as needed.

Kutcher, who is semi-retired and studying linguistics and native studies at the University of Manitoba, got involved with the group when it started in November 2019.

"I think it’s a good program, and I like to keep busy and active," the 60-year-old says.

Born and raised in Dauphin, Kutcher has a long history of volunteering. She regularly serves at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the Dauphin Countryfest.

She has also volunteered internationally. In 2011, she served for three months at an HIV clinic in Mlolongo, Kenya. The next year, she spent three months volunteering in an orphanage for children with HIV in Chonburi, Thailand.

While those experiences opened her eyes to what life is like in other parts of the world, volunteering with the patrol has opened her eyes to different parts of St. Boniface.

"My last patrol was along the Seine River, and it’s just amazing what’s around there," she says. "You end up seeing things you wouldn’t see if you were driving around because there’s no access to them (by car)."

Kutcher (right) is semi-retired and studies at the U of M. Moudgill moved to the city from B.C. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Kutcher (right) is semi-retired and studies at the U of M. Moudgill moved to the city from B.C. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)

Volunteering with the patrol has been a great way for Shivam Moudgill to get to know Winnipeg, too.

Born and raised in India, Moudgill lived in Delta, B.C., for four years prior to moving to Winnipeg three months ago so that he could study at the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology.

"Since I’m really new to Manitoba, (patrolling) helps me to locate so many places," he says. "It helps me gain really good knowledge of the streets and about different people, because I get a chance to talk to people every time I patrol."

Moudgill joined the patrol in part because he wants to work in law enforcement. He does not see many international students aspiring to that line of work, something he hopes will change.

"I want to be the one to motivate others and show people who come from other parts of the world that they can do something for Canada, too," he says.

The St. Boniface patrol currently relies on about 24 volunteers, says Trish Cleem, who co-ordinates the group.

The time commitment is flexible based on availability; four to eight hours is the average monthly commitment.

The group conducts patrols at all hours of the day and night in a manner that adheres to pandemic gathering restrictions.

Anyone interested in getting involved can email saintbonifacecopp@gmail.com.

"I think it’s a really beneficial service that we’re giving to the community," Cleem says. "St. Boniface is a beautiful community and that’s what we’re working for — to keep it that way."

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.