This past week we celebrated National Volunteer Week, an annual worldwide celebration, which promotes and shows appreciation for volunteerism and volunteering, around Canada and the world.
Our volunteers are the sheer image of selflessness, willing to help us every day in building a stronger, and more connected community. They inspire us by donating their time, unique talents and voices to making a difference.
Spotlighting five of our beloved volunteers, Rebecca Saloustros, Jeannette Hlavach, Tim Tan, Su Lin Chen and Daniel Molnar, we asked them to share their story and experiences.
These storytellers are all from different backgrounds and age groups, bringing a unique point of view and personality to the fundamental role they have within our organisation.
“If you always give, you will always have”, ancient Chinese Proverb.
How long have you been volunteering with the Garden?
Rebecca: I have been volunteering at the Garden since August 2019.
Jeannette: I’ve been volunteering at the Garden for about 11 years now – starting with 7 years as a Board Trustee, finishing as President. To stay involved in the Garden I then became a docent and have since been giving tours.
Tim: I started training for the tours in December 2018 and gave my first one March of 2019.
Su Lin: I’ve volunteered as a docent for 6 years, beginning in the spring of 2014.
Daniel: I started volunteering at the Garden back in June 2019.
Do you remember the main reason why you chose to volunteer at the Garden?
Jeannette: In my previous life, I worked at City Hall as the Heritage Planner for Gastown and Chinatown. Volunteering at the Garden, one can support an important cultural resource in an important heritage district.
Su Lin: I took several courses concerning Chinese Art and Literature History as an undergraduate and had a deep knowledge of Chinese culture. The first time I visited the Garden and admired the artworks, sculptures, furniture, and rocks, I realized that I had a lot of stories of this ancient civilization to share with people, and that I was very enthusiastic to do so.
Daniel: I was looking for an opportunity to change pace and thought it might be a great way to reconnect with nature, learn more about plant care and the art of Penjing, and also learn more about the surrounding architecture.
What is the main thing you want people to know about the Garden and Chinatown?
Rebecca: People should know that the Garden is situated in a wonderful historic neighbourhood. Chinatown has amazing architecture and fantastic small businesses.
Tim: I believe the Garden is remarkably beautiful and serene, especially after you come to understand some fundamental concepts of its design. For a while, I was scheduled to volunteer at the Garden almost weekly and I never got tired of its serenity, even in the rain!
Is there a memory from your time with the Garden that stands out?
Rebecca: My favourite memory of the Garden was when I did yoga there with my husband on our wedding anniversary. It was such a great setting and we enjoyed the instructor showing us yoga postures worthy of a Bruce Lee movie.
Jeannette: I love it when we get visitors, thinking they are just going to see an ‘attraction’, and then becoming enchanted with the Garden. This is especially true when the visitors are Vancouverites discovering this place for the first time.
Daniel: Working alongside Master Pin both outdoors and in the greenhouse, learning the art of Penjing from such a skilled, talented man. Getting to know him and his interactions in helping to maintain the Garden’s rare collection of plants.
“Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns.”, Unknown author
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering at the Garden?
Jeannette: I get to spend time in this amazing place every week, sharing my enthusiasm and knowledge with our visitors.
Tim: I enjoy meeting people when giving my tours. As it happens, the majority of my guests are visitors to Vancouver, who are simply curious about the park and structure and they always have fun stories to tell. It is even better when I find someone who has a similar story to mine (like they’re from Malaysia originally), that’s always exciting (and I always get to say “small world!”).
Su Lin: I enjoy taking photos of the Garden. Capturing the movement of light, shadows, and reflections, together with the seasons unveiling. These changes bring sounds to this tranquil Garden: you need to pay attention to hear these noises.
What advice would you give to someone who’s wondering if they should join our volunteer team?
Rebecca: I would say definitely volunteer. You get to be in the most tranquil place in Vancouver, attend great cultural events, and meet other great people who work at and volunteer at the garden.
Jeannette: Volunteering at the Garden is a unique opportunity to learn about a fascinating time in China’s history. Sharing that knowledge with others and watching our visitors get intrigued about another culture!
Tim: There are some things that may seem intimidating at first – certainly, the idea of giving public tours sounds like a lot, if, like me, you’ve never done anything of the sort before. But trust and be patient with yourself and you’ll find that like everything else, the ability to talk for an hour becomes easy (too easy for me, I tend to go on for way too long).
Daniel: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, everyone is friendly, and there is always a way to offer your unique skills to help move the garden forward.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, please contact [email protected].