Community engagement – what does that mean? How does one step into a volunteer role of this nature? Anton Voronin is a Community Engagement Volunteer with Threads of Life, in addition to being one of the Steps for Life planning committee members in Winnipeg. Anton began volunteering with Threads of Life in 2022 and took on the dual roles of planning committee member and Community Engagement Volunteer when he learned more about the organization and the families served, through an invitation from a professional colleague and his own research.
Anton has volunteered with many different organizations over the years. “When I was a university student the faculty got me more involved in volunteering,“ he said. He has helped organizations like the Winnipeg Eco Centre, Big Brothers Big Sisters, St. John’s Ambulance and the Bear Clan Patrol who assist in patrolling neighbourhoods providing support to at-risk and homeless individuals. Recently he’s dedicated time to helping Ukrainian newcomers with an Airport Welcome Desk. As a health and safety professional, it was an easy choice to begin volunteering with Threads of Life. “I can see the purpose in what’s being done and there’s not enough knowledge of Threads of Life.” This is one reason why he feels it’s important to be in the Community Engagement Volunteer role.
As a safety professional, Anton has seen how workplace injuries in particular can change lives. “Initially with those individuals, you are hyper-focused on physical recovery and the mental health component wasn’t in the forefront of the scope of their recovery,” he noted. Anton would like to continue to raise the awareness of how a worker’s mental health is impacted and feels Threads of Life fills in a gap in available support that he has witnessed personally.
As a volunteer he doesn’t feel that what he does individually makes a difference – that’s part of his humble nature. In his role as a Community Engagement Volunteer, Anton has taken the opportunity to speak to others in the health and safety community about Threads of Life and its programming. As a result, he has inspired a significant number of people to also volunteer with Threads of Life in support of the Winnipeg Steps for Life event. He feels if he can inspire others to be more aware, then that’s a positive thing. He hopes to set an example for his social and professional networks as people identify with the message and the importance of it. “It’s meaningful to me because I work in safety; I have encountered people whose life has changed as a result of a workplace injury and it left a mark on me every time. I feel that Threads of Life fills a specific niche that neither WCB nor the employer could fulfill for those impacted.”
In terms of what he finds rewarding volunteering with Threads of Life, seeing the results of all the hard work done by the committee is one aspect as well as speaking with family members who have dealt with a workplace tragedy. With respect to the Community Engagement role itself, Anton shared, “I think the most rewarding part would be the challenge of using my own wit and creativity for the role, there is no roadmap or specific directions. It’s what you make of it; I think I personally excel at challenges like that.” That’s one of the unique aspects of the Community Engagement Volunteer role: each volunteer brings a unique perspective, network and skill set to the role which allows them to customize their approach to engagement in their location.
Threads of Life truly benefits from the involvement and creativity of committed volunteers like Anton. “I believe that all of us have a part to play in making this world a better place,” he says. “Volunteering is one of the ways you can do so more directly. It’s also very humbling to learn about the tough experiences of those in need. It puts things into perspective for me.”