We are so grateful to the wonderful people who take time out of their days to volunteer at the Bata Shoe Museum. We also hope that they get as much out of their volunteer work as they put into it, so it is wonderful to hear stories, like this one by our amazing docent Laura, about one of the benefits she has gained from her time here - new friendships. #FriendsMW
I did not know a single person at the Bata Shoe Museum (BSM) when I joined as a volunteer. I started volunteering to build experience in the museum sector, where I hope to work; making new friends wasn’t my primary motivation. Having said that, I had just moved to Toronto where I had only a handful of acquaintances so I began volunteering at a time in my life when I was very open to meeting people and investing in new relationships. I had no idea I was about to become part of such an interesting and supportive team, or that I’d make such meaningful friendships.
In training we often worked in pairs or small groups and because there were less than 20 of us I had chance to interact with everyone on a personal level right from the start. Through shadowing established docents at the museum I began to meet a wider circle of volunteers who were warm and welcoming to newcomers. Then there was a free event at HotDocs which Andrea, our volunteer coordinator, invited us all to attend and the Korean meal we enjoyed together afterwards - that helped! It has been wonderful to discover how diverse and exciting the bunch of people who volunteer at BSM are. Of course there are lots of museum geeks amongst us, but there is such a rich range of ages, nationalities, and previous careers in the group that I feel like I learn something new and fascinating about a volunteer colleague each time I’m at the museum.
The opportunity to make intergenerational friendships has been a lovely, unexpected surprise. It has been such a pleasure to become friends with docents who are retired, in particular Mary-Jane who has given us countless tips about life in Canada, welcomed us into her home, and been a huge source of support and Maggie who has generously shared insights from her inspiring career. Another delightful surprise was the news that a fellow docent was expecting a baby at the same time my own daughter was due. Not only did we develop a strong, meaningful friendship, but our children have friends for life now too! It doesn’t stop there, I feel like there are many, many other volunteers who I am still getting to know and I arrive at the museum excited to spend time with them. Often, our paths would not have crossed had it not been for BSM. I feel really fortunate to have happened on the BSM volunteer program and its wonderful coordinator, Andrea, who creates a culture where these friendships can flourish.