Honouring Our Volunteers: Domina Lufuma
Why did you decide to volunteer with REACH?
I am a creative, purpose-driven Black Congolese-Canadian Francophone diversity advocate whose ultimate passion is to work with organizations whose mandate is to increase empowerment, civic engagement, and positive representation of immigrant and refugee youth.
I was already pretty active and enjoyed giving back to my on-campus community. My first volunteering opportunity was with the Dare to Care Project by the University of Alberta Make Poverty History. I also served as a U of A volunteer for Transition and Orientation, a Senior Peer (mentorship program) and a Student Speaker & Ambassador for the University of Alberta International.
I remember seating in the Humanities main floor study area and thinking to myself, surely, volunteering isn’t limited to just the U of A on campus space? And next thing I knew, I was passionately browsing the internet, researching and looking for more volunteering opportunities outside campus. To be honest, I don’t know if it was just coincidence or the fact that I entered the key words “community safety, crime prevention, immigrant and refugee youth programs in the search bar,” but what I remember is ending up on the REACH Edmonton Council for Safe Communities website. I read the organisation’s mandate, mission and when I got to the vision part…Eureka, there it was! The magic phrase:
[Our] “Vision: A city in which every Edmontonian contributes to a community where everyone is safe and feels safe.”
Contribute, everyone, safety, prevention. While reading those words, I thought about how important it is for us, Edmontonians, to take ownership of our community. I went straight to the volunteer form, filled it up and submitted it. I am not quite sure if I got a call back on that same day or on the following day, but knowing Kelly Holland, who is the REACH Edmonton Community Engagement Manager and Volunteer Coordinator, I wouldn’t be surprised that she called me a few minutes after my submission. Yeah, she is very persistent!
So, to answer to your question, the reason why I decided to volunteer with REACH was because the organisation’s vision statement resonated with my idea of community. The second and very important reason to why I volunteer for REACH is Kelly Holland! Did I mention that she is my mentor? Being Kelly’s mentee is a blessing, she is a reminder that I am who and where I am today because of the combined efforts of my village. Because of people like Kelly Holland, Arthemon Rurangwa, Helen Rusich, tonton Robert Suraki, M. Luketa M’Pindou, and everyone who has invested their time and energy in growing me. People who support and did not give up on me. Because of My community, I am.
Therefore, it is very important for me to pay it forward and volunteering at REACH gives me the opportunity to do just that.”
What did you gain from the experience?
What I gained and still am gaining is the opportunity to learn about my community so I can better serve my community.
Volunteering at REACH has helped me sharpen my skills and acquire new ones. I learned about event planning, how to lead and oversee a team of volunteers, and how to facilitate a group conversation. It is at REACH that I learned how to facilitate a Talking/Sharing Circle (based on the sacred tradition of Indigenous People) with immigrant and refugee Black youth. I also learned a couple of useful networking strategies. Can you believe that REACH trusted this introvert (that I strongly am), through the outreach volunteer position, to represent the organisation and connect with other community organisations (basically strangers!) at not just one but multiple gatherings?! I am grateful for the learning opportunity to get out of my shell, face my fears, and learn about the importance of networking and support groups.
Additionally, I learned how to efficiently advocate for myself, improve my argument, and confidently use my voice. With the right tools one can become one’s best advocate. No one can speak for you better than yourself
And last but not least, volunteering at REACH is giving me the opportunity to learn and broaden my understanding on complex issues such as:
• Family violence across the lifespan, domestic violence, youth and relationships, immigrants’ and refugees’ challenges
• Homelessness; economic inequality; affordable housing & healthcare; mental health & wellness; Safety, etc.
I should also mention that I enjoyed attending different workshops, training opportunities, and conferences. And to name a few:
• Police Citizen's Academy (community policing, crime prevention strategies, Better understand your police service, crime and safety issues)
• Impact & Implications Conference 2017
• Diverse voices
• Crime prevention week
• Historic Trauma & Aboriginal Client Service workshops
• Red Cross Healthy Youth Relationships Program as a Prevention Educator
• Immigrants and refugees (intergenerational) trauma workshops
Did you have any memorable experiences?
I have many memorable memories at REACH, but there is one in particular that happened when I was going through a though time and I wrote about it here.