National Volunteer Week – Tourism Vancouver’s Volunteer Spotlight

Written by Justine LeRose

Volunteering, or “giving of yourself” as she calls it, has always been a part of Ivy Blacquiere’s life. Growing up as one of 10 children in a small, community-oriented town in Newfoundland, she learned early on from her grandmother that she was given two hands for a reason: one for herself and one for others. Throughout her childhood, following the lead of her grandmother and mother, Ivy and her siblings volunteered to assist those less fortunate or less able within their town.

Over the years, Ivy continued to volunteer in her community, making dance and skating costumes for her daughters’ teams, picking up other kids from sporting events when their parents couldn’t, delivering meals on wheels with her local church, and offering her time in a nearby care home.

It wasn’t until four years ago that Ivy started her service at Tourism Vancouver, following the insistence of her long-time friend, a Tourism Vancouver volunteer, that she would love the role. While Ivy can recall the nervousness she felt during her first shift at the Visitor Centre, she also favourably remembers the following six months of bringing brochures home to study and enlisting her daughters in role-play exercises to practice possible visitor scenarios.

Now, as a seasoned volunteer, Ivy channels her initial anxieties about her knowledge of the city into compassion while assisting confused travellers who stop by the Visitor Centre or pass her on the streets during her shifts as a City Host. Ivy has become, without a doubt, a knowledgeable and approachable member of the team.

Through her natural generosity, Ivy has been able to build genuine relationships with the visitors she has helped during her role as a Tourism Vancouver Volunteer. She has received photos via email from visitors after their return home and has even developed a lasting friendship with a traveller to whom she offered guidance after the end of her shift.

When I sat down with Ivy last month, she had the following to say about her experience as a volunteer:

Q: Why is volunteering important to you?

A: Volunteering, I found out quite early in life, certainly gave me confidence and it certainly made you feel really good about yourself when you give back. It took away a selfish aspect to your personality – which you tend to [have] as a young kid. It’s very rewarding. If ever I felt joy in my life, it was in volunteering and giving. This is pure joy.

Q: How do you feel that volunteer work has had an impact on your life?

A: I think it’s given me an incredible amount of understanding of people, especially different cultures, because I come from Newfoundland. I never saw another culture other than our very own. […] It gave me an incredible understanding of the way people lived, their family lives together, their religions. It just opened up a whole new world to me. I was in awe of the differences out there in the world from where I came from.

Q: What do you find the most rewarding about doing volunteer work?

A: I think the most rewarding is to see the pleasure and the gratitude on people’s faces when you’ve helped them in any situation. I can relate to that when I’m travelling and I get myself into, as most travellers do, in situations where it’s a bit disconcerting and you have a little bit of fear.  If there’s somebody there to turn to, it makes all the difference in the world. To see that gratitude, that pleasure, the memories that you’ve created for that person.

Q: What benefits do you find from your volunteer work with Tourism Vancouver’s City Host program?

A: It’s more engaging with the people. You can walk beside them to wherever you’d like to take them. If they’re unsure of anything, you can quell those fears and say “I’ll just walk down here with you and show you.” […] A lot of people aren’t big travellers; this might be their first trip. I like that I can engage with them that way: help with suitcases or get them a taxi.

Q: What has your experience been like as a member of the Tourism Vancouver team?

A: I find it quite helpful especially because I was quite unsure. […] They want to do exactly what their job requires and they’re happy to be there too. All the volunteers are really friendly and they will help if you’re stuck and you’re not sure. Which is so nice. Which I love. […] I think we learn from each other, the volunteers and the staff. And I think they’ve helped hone my skills.

Tourism Vancouver’s volunteer team currently consists of over 200 eager experts from diverse backgrounds who are all ready to assist visitors in Vancouver. They can be found at the Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre year-round and walking through the downtown core as City Hosts in the summer. For more information about Tourism Vancouver’s volunteer program, please visit https://www.tourismvancouver.com/about/volunteer/.

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