|Making Life Better for Others: Volunteers Recognized for their Efforts
By Jen Skerritt of The Winnipeg Free Press
Twenty-five years ago, Elisabeth Kunkel saw images of war and famine in Ethiopia and felt inspired to help.
"Some people in the North End said, 'We should do something about this,' " she recalls.
Today, the small movement within Kunkel's church to sponsor refugees has snowballed into The North End Sponsorship Team.
To date, the group has sponsored 157 refugees from 18 different countries, many of whom have gone on to graduate from university and start their own businesses.
"It gives you a real sense of satisfaction," said Kunkel, a charter member of the team. "It gets to be an addiction."
On Wednesday, Kunkel was among dozens of individuals and organizations honoured for their volunteer efforts. Volunteer Manitoba handed out 33 awards to recognize charities, businesses and citizens who help their community by lending a hand to others in need.
Executive director Dennis Dyck said 60 per cent of Manitobans engage in some kind of volunteer work -- the highest rate in the country. He said the most recent sandbagging efforts show most Manitobans genuinely want to help those around them.
"Without them, we wouldn't have any community," he said of all volunteers. "We're Prairie people. We realize we want to help each other to get along."
In Adriana Leinberger's case, her interest in the connection between art and mental illness led her to Artbeat Studio.
The former fine arts student spent two years volunteering at the Exchange studio, which helps individuals living with a mental illness recover by expressing their creativity through art.
Leinberger went on to study art therapy and now works with the organization.
"It's more than tapping into that (volunteer) resource," said Artbeat founder Nigel Bart.
"You're developing relationships with people."