Interview with Robyn Vondrasek: Administrative Assistant
By: Ingrid Olauson
When people think of the Crisis Centre, they tend to think of the 24/7 phone and online chat service. They might picture a room buzzing with activity of front-line volunteers ready, sometimes in the middle of the night, to answer the call that just might save a life. But this isn’t the only scene that represents the important work of suicide prevention and intervention in BC. Volunteers help in so many ways, on the front-line and behind the scenes. Robyn Vondrasek is one such volunteer. When she’s not busy at her full-time retail job at Apple, Robyn’s at the Centre helping with data entry, filing, entering feedback from workshops such as safeTALK, as well as any other tasks that need doing around the office. Recently, I chatted with Robyn about her role as an Administrative Assistant and learned that, as a volunteer, there’s a niche out there for everyone.
“It feels good. I really enjoy being at the Crisis Centre. I feel like I’m helping the administrative staff, but also giving back to the community and doing something for my friend,” she tells me over the phone.
Robyn searched for volunteer opportunities in the past, but her busy work schedule often conflicted with her desire to get involved in any particular organization. Then, in the fall of 2018, Robyn experienced the tragedy of suicide firsthand when she lost her best friend.
“That was very difficult for me. I wanted to do something that honoured my friend and kept her in my memory.” When Robyn came to the Centre, she tells me, she was surprised by how far-reaching the Centre’s work was in BC. “When you think of a Crisis Centre, you just think of people on the phone lines. You don’t think about the educators and the people going out to schools and teaching mindfulness techniques, or how to safely talk to someone who might be suicidal. You don’t think about the people in the background; but the work they do is so valuable when it comes to suicide prevention.” And although this is still the heart and soul of what the Crisis Centre does, Robyn nails it on the head for me, that there is so much more to this organization.
When I asked her first impressions as a volunteer, she tells me, “I thought it would be the kind of place where I would go, do my hours and then leave, but I didn’t expect everyone to be so warm, so kind, and so open.” She’s got a point! It seems all the staff and volunteers are there because they’re passionate about helping the community and making a different in other people’s lives. “I think finding these people and finding that like-minded approach has been good for me,” she says, explaining how the experience has had a positive effect in her own life. She says that, when telling people this, they assume it must traumatize her to speak with people in crisis. Although it can be hard some days (she decided to take time off during the anniversary of her friend’s suicide), as an Administrative Assistant, Robyn has truly found a volunteer role that works for her and her skills. “People don’t really know that that’s an option.” She adds that when she goes to volunteer, “people are happy to see me and take the time to say ‘thank you so much’ for all the work you do. You really do feel appreciated and you really do feel like you’re making a difference no matter how small you think your tasks are.”
When asked what keeps her coming back, Robyn noted the positive environment with its emphasis on self-care, the ability to give back, and as an employee for Apple, she’s able to match $35 for every hour she volunteers directly to the Crisis Centre. Now that’s a win-win situation! Robyn has finally found her niche.
As a final word, she passes on to me a message she wishes everyone knew, that anyone can call in regardless of what struggles they’re having. “You don’t have to feel suicidal to take advantage of the services they offer. Nobody will ever turn you away. It really is a matter of life or death sometimes, right? Take that chance.”
And if you’re interested in finding out more about the exciting volunteer opportunities available at the Crisis Centre check out our volunteer page.