Meet ACCESO Volunteer: Karen

During our 25th Anniversary celebration, we are introducing you to the dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to promote greater access to education. This month we meet Karen, a board member whose many skills have supported ACCESO’s fundraising and projects over the years. When she isn’t organizing trivia nights or auctions, you can find Karen leading the Back-to-School Project over the summer!

I consider education to be one of the strongest ways to change the world for the better. I am a former high school math teacher and currently teach English-as-a-Second Language. Years ago, I attended a few ACCESO Sounds and Tastes of the Americas events and learned about the important work that ACCESO does in Latin America and the Caribbean. I was impressed that the organization is completely volunteer-run and almost every dollar raised goes directly to the projects. This inspired me to become an ACCESO volunteer. The camaraderie and positive energy of the other volunteers is very welcoming. The focus on justice, fairness and equality aligns with my personal beliefs and outlook.

In 2012, I became involved with our local Canadian project, Solidarity with Students.  There is a long-established relationship between ACCESO and South East Ottawa Community Health Centre (SEOCHC), our project partner.  SEOCHC registers students from low-income, New Canadian families each June. These families come to Ottawa from a myriad of countries.  ACCESO International obtains backpacks filled with school supplies for these students. Some of the bags and supplies are donated by local businesses and churches but most of it is purchased through the generous support of our donors. The filled bags are delivered to the students and their families in August. I enjoy shopping for the backpacks and school supplies and filling the bags with the help of other volunteers. It brings back memories and thoughts of the new beginnings that take place each fall. Because of privacy issues, I have not been able to meet any of the recipients at the bag distribution but the feedback that I have heard from my contacts at SEOCHC is overwhelmingly positive. The students and their families are very appreciative.  These New Canadians can start the school year with the tools that they will need to learn and study with dignity and confidence. 

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of meeting some of our bursary recipients from other ACCESO projects in South America and the Caribbean. I am continually impressed by the success and gratitude of these former students who would not have had these educational opportunities without ACCESO’s help. I am proud to be part of this group working toward the common purpose of achieving greater access to education for marginalized children, youth and women. To the former and current students, project partners and volunteers: Happy 25th Anniversary and congratulations on all of your accomplishments!