Fight­ing poverty from the age of six

This teen has done a decade of ser­vice

The Kids Post - - Disruptors - — Mackenzie Pat­ter­son

We don’t re­al­ize how many peo­ple in our own city are strug­gling to make ends meet.”

Al­though many stu­dents wait un­til the last few months of high school to com­plete their manda­tory 40 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice, oth­ers know it’s never too early to ad­dress the needs of our com­mu­ni­ties.

Olivia Nadalini, a Haver­gal Col­lege stu­dent en­ter­ing Grade 12 this Septem­ber, has been con­tribut­ing her time to im­por­tant causes such as food and cloth­ing drives since she was in grade one, and she doesn’t plan on slow­ing down any time soon.

Not only has Nadalini picked up sev­eral im­por­tant life skills dur­ing her time as a vol­un­teer (time man­age­ment, lead­er­ship and team­work, to name a few), but she says she’s also learned more about the is­sue of poverty in the city.

“Poverty and in­equal­ity are such huge, com­plex is­sues, so I de­cided to fo­cus on a smaller as­pect of this is­sue by vol­un­teer­ing at New Cir­cles and or­ga­niz­ing cloth­ing drives,” she says. “Al­though this is just a short-term so­lu­tion, it can have a huge im­pact. But we must keep search­ing for a long-term so­lu­tion.”

Nadalini was first con­nected through Haver­gal to New Cir­cles, a North York-based non-profit agency founded in 2005 that pro­vides cloth­ing and other ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties to Toronto fam­i­lies in need. She also cred­its her par­ents with in­spir­ing her com­mu­nity ser­vice work, since they are ac­tively in­volved in the com­mu­nity.

Nadalini’s pas­sion for the New Cir­cles mis­sion is ev­i­dent.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant that we do­nate our cloth­ing. It helps a lot more than you would have thought,” she says. “If peo­ple are get­ting cloth­ing from some­where, they don’t have to go out and buy new cloth­ing, which can be very ex­pen­sive, and they can fo­cus their money on ed­u­ca­tion and food.”

Through New Cir­cles, Nadalini’s eyes have also been opened to how poverty can too of­ten go un­no­ticed.

“You may see home­less peo­ple on the street, but that’s only a hand­ful of peo­ple,” she says. “You may not re­al­ize how many peo­ple are still strug­gling even though they have a house.”

Spurred on by her early in­volve­ment in New Cir­cles, Nadalini took on two more vol­un­teer roles: Hol­land Bloorview Kids Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Hospi­tal and Bri­ton House Re­tire­ment Home.

At Bri­ton House, the high school stu­dent en­joys build­ing con­nec­tions with peo­ple. For the past two years, she has worked weekly with se­niors suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia.

Nadalini also helps or­ga­nize the vol­un­teer ses­sions at the home, and she vis­its ev­ery Wed­nes­day dur­ing the year to play games with the se­niors, throw par­ties or just pro­vide them with some friendly com­pany.

“As for the se­niors I’m vol­un­teer­ing with, I could see my grand­par­ents start­ing to get de­men­tia, so I know it’s re­ally im­por­tant to go visit these peo­ple who of­ten don’t have fam­ily nearby,” she says. “We’re the high­light of their week, and so it’s re­ally im­por­tant to help them out.”

Through her vol­un­teer work, Nadalini has re­al­ized her own pas­sion for help­ing oth­ers in her com­mu­nity, and she hopes to con­tinue this work in the fu­ture by be­com­ing a doc­tor for un­der­served groups, some of whom she al­ready works with to­day.

For now, though, the stu­dent is set to tackle her last year of high school and has plans to ex­pand the work she does. She hopes to visit New Cir­cles more fre­quently and wants to or­ga­nize a school­wide cloth­ing drive that would en­cour­age peo­ple from the lo­cal com­mu­nity to do­nate cloth­ing.

And she wants to get more of her peers in­volved in non-profit work through food and cloth­ing drives.

“It’s not some­thing to just vol­un­teer to get your 40 hours [for high school credit]. It’s some­thing to in­spire a pas­sion in vol­un­teer­ing in kids at a young age,” she says.

“They can start vol­un­teer­ing at things like food and cloth­ing drives when they’re lit­tle and then they can ex­tend that when they get older and con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety.”

One of Nadalini’s three vol­un­teer com­mit­ments is at Hol­land Bloorview

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