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Well done Vilia!

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Local News

Emergency room volunteer serves up companionship, stat!

Vilia Tosio is a friend of the emergency department.

She spends a few hours a week keeping patients waiting to be treated at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre comfortable and comforted.

“There might be the perception out there that volunteering at a hospital is not so pleasant — that it may be yucky, but it's not,” she said. “It's about companionship, making people feel less scared. It's being a friend; it may be something as simple as chatting with an elderly person who may have forgotten their glasses preventing them from reading a magazine.”

Tosio has been involved with the local hospital's Friends of the Emergency Department program for a little more than a year, six months after she first moved to Fort McMurray with her husband.

Tosio, who is originally from South Africa, has also lived in Holland and New Zealand.

“I've always done volunteer work,” said Tosio. “Whether it is fundraiser for an orphanage in Turkey, collecting clothes for people in Romania and Africa or The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund from South Africa ... Ghandi once said that we must be the change we want to see.”

Tosio volunteers at the hospital once a week for an average of three to four hours.

“Even if you can give someone 15 minutes, that 15 minutes of interaction in an eight-hour day of waiting can make a difference,” she said. “Just imagine a mother who has a sick child and maybe she has other children with her too. Having kids in a confined space for up to eight hours is not easy.”

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Tosio called volunteer work a rewarding experience.

“It's always appreciated but you may not always see the results right away,” she said. “But somewhere down the line it's going to make a difference.”

Tosio then showed Today an email sent to her last month from a woman she helped in 1998 who thanked her for her support at that time.

Jillian McIntosh, volunteer services co-ordinator at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, said volunteers at the hospital help relieve a lot of the stress and anxiety patients may feel.

“Isolation is a big thing with people who are in the hospital,” she said. “The reality is that staff can't give their undivided attention to a single person and sit and chat with each patient for an hour or they would never get their work done. I think a lot of the families who have family members here are comforted knowing that we have great people who are here just volunteering their time to spend with their loved one. They really appreciate the fact that somebody who doesn't even know their family member is taking the time to get to know them.”

McIntosh said the No. 1 quality the health centre looks for when selecting volunteers is “a genuine desire to help people.”

“It's a great way to get to know their community, especially for newcomers to the city,” said McIntosh. “It's also a great way to gain skills or develop ones that they already have.”

McIntosh said volunteers must also have Alberta Health Care coverage, go through a criminal record check, have references and even go through an interview process.

Along with the Friends of the Emergency Department program, the hospital also has volunteer opportunities for continuing care, pet therapy and a youth program.

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Pierre

More Vilia in the news

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College’s multicultural day serves up global cuisine, dances

It was a lunch hour of boerewors, belly dancing and Pakistani pop music at Keyano College yesterday as part of Orientation Week 2009.

Outside in the Doug MacRae Park, students and staff were fed a South African spread cooked up by local resident and caterer Vilia Tosio. For $5 a plate, the meal included boerewors or traditional sausage, koeksister, which is deep-fried twisted dough dipped in syrup and Hertzog koekies, which are jam and coconut tartlets.

Inside, Keyano’s study lounge was filled with onlookers and passersby while the Rotuma Pua Mana dance troupe performed traditional Hawaiian and Tahitian dances, girls from the Pakistan Canada Association shared a famous Pakistani pop song and Keyano staff member Reinalie Jorolan showcased a tribal belly dance.

“Over the past few years, the diversity of students has grown as it has in the city, and it’s time to start celebrating that,” said Natasha John-Hurford, co-chairwoman of the 2009 orientation committee.

Sameera Hassan, 11, one of five girls dressed in shalwar qameez, traditional clothing consisting of a long, loose fitting tunic and trousers in vibrant colours of pink, orange and green. The girls sang “Dil Dil Pakistan” while waving miniature Pakistani flags.

“We just really like the song,” said Sameera, a Grade 6 student at the Fort McMurray Islamic School. She said participating in the Keyano event was fun.

Reinalie Jorolan, project liaison for Keyano's environmental monitoring program, was dressed in a traditional round bell skirt, tribal belt with tassels and chimes. For her first dance she balanced a lit candle on top of her head and held a lit candle in each hand without missing a beat. She even had audience participation in getting some of the candles lit.

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