Fighting poverty from the age of six
This teen has done a decade of service
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