Montreal Changemakers Cook Up a Feast for Santropol Roulant
In various cities across the world, our Changemaker Consuls organize activities which make a social or environmental difference to their adopted communities. From meeting refugee families in Frankfurt, to collecting rubbish from beaches in the Philippines, these efforts add up to the world’s largest community outreach program for expatriates.
One of the first communities opened was in Montreal, Canada, where Salta Sadykova was one of the first Consuls recruited. She’s now been posting activities each month since 2013, working with Santropol Roulant, a non-profit organization that specializes in bringing meals on wheels to elderly people.
We asked her about her expat experience, her work with Santropol Roulant, and her activities with the InterNations Changemakers.
Where are you from originally, and what brought you to Montreal?
I am originally from Kyrgyzstan where I did my undergraduate studies and started my career. As I was striving for a new life and professional experience I considered emigration and decided to relocate to Canada, where some of my friends have previously settled. I wanted to live in a Francophone, or better yet, bilingual city, and as I spoke French Montreal was an easy and right choice for me.
How did you first get involved with Santropol and the InterNations Changemakers?
I found out about Santropol’s mission after attending their fundraising event back in early 2013 and was amazed by the work they do. When the suggestion came from InterNations head office to create a Changemakers group and become its Consul, I said yes without hesitation and suggested Santropol as a partner organization where InterNations members could volunteer their time and skills as part of the Meals-on-Wheels program.
What is the main focus of Santropol, and what does a typical volunteering session look like?
Santropol Roulant’s key impact areas are food security, social inclusion, and community engagement. They call themselves an intergenerational community food hub where they grow, prepare, and deliver food. In doing so, they create a continuum of engaging services that help build a stronger social fabric, and increase food security and social inclusion for Montrealers, and especially for elderly people with loss of autonomy and limited mobility.
InterNations members usually participate in the Meals-on-Wheels volunteering, which includes preparing freshly made and healthy meals in Santropol’s kitchen and then delivering those meals to their clients on foot, or by bike, car, or public transportation. Throughout these years, Santropol’s staff have developed a seamless system for engaging volunteers and it works without a hitch. They have wonderful, professional, and committed employees.
How often do you organize InterNations Activities for Santropol, and what can InterNations members expect to get out of volunteering?
I organize one activity per month on a date that works best for Santropol’s volunteering needs. Information is posted in advance so that InterNations members can plan accordingly and sign up. Based on my experience with InterNations volunteers, I can say that they become Changemakers for various reasons: People want to do something good for the community, to meet new people while they volunteer in the kitchen or deliver meals, or spend three hours in a useful way that brings them emotional and moral reward knowing that they did something concrete for a good cause. These are the benefits that InterNations members can definitely get out from the volunteering experience.
What would your advice be to members who wish to organize activities through the InterNations Changemakers?
My advice is to be proactive, take responsibility, leadership, and undertake practical steps to make something happen, especially if it is for a good social cause and will enable InterNations members to get involved and contribute their time and skills.
What is your best experience from organizing a Changemakers Activity?
The best experience came from interacting with clients of Santropol Roulant during the delivery of meals as you have a chance to have first-hand experience with the beneficiaries of the services and start to understand the importance of such non-profits that break social isolation and ensure food security for vulnerable people. The second best experience was attending several Santropol fundraising events where there is always a strong community spirit and celebration of Santropol’s successes.
Will you do anything special with Santropol for Christmas this year?
Unfortunately, there is nothing special planned for Christmas this year due to various reasons. However, my way of supporting this amazing organization is by attending their annual fundraising gala in early November, which I have been attending for three consecutive years. I have convinced some InterNations members to support their efforts and attend the gala as well. I hope other members who haven’t yet tried volunteering will get inspired and consider signing up for next shift at Santropol Roulant.