Paula’s Home Away From Home
Written by: Ashley Jewell
Paula Hayden was born in Goose bay, Labrador, and spent her teen years growing up in
Newfoundland. Paula had always been a giving person and had volunteered at multiple non-profit organizations. For five years she worked at a local Christian church as a children’s pastor.
Around thanksgiving in late 2010, Paula wanted to experience some new things and possible job opportunities, so she packed her bags and moved to Barrie, Ontario.
In early February of 2011, around Valentine’s Day, Paula had been settled in her new home in Barrie for a while and found herself in somewhat of a slump. Not knowing anyone in the area or having anyone to talk to, Paula got herself up out of the house and joined the YMCA community gym to get herself in more of a social environment and to set a goal for herself to get healthier. She wanted to get herself in a more physical state and become confident with her appearance.
Paula’s first impression of the YMCA was very welcoming. To her it felt like a family-oriented environment; everyone was so friendly and happy to have a conversation with others. That feeling made her very drawn to the YMCA. The more time Paula spent and invested at the YMCA, the more she learned about their core values and what they did as an organization.
Feeling welcomed, Paula had decided to deepen her relationship with the YMCA by volunteering at Barrie’s yearly Kempenfest festival, a weekend that was full of music, laughter and rides for the whole community every year. She could smell the buttered popcorn and the sweet smell of cotton candy and candy apples and hear children and adults screaming with cheers as they rode the carnival rides spread along Dunlop Street in downtown Barrie.
One day while volunteering at the Kempenfest festival, a YMCA staff member who Paula had built a friendship with while volunteering asked her how her long weekend had went.
“I don’t really know anyone here, and my family is still on the east coast,” Paula replied.
“The YMCA has become your family and is your family now,” Paula’s friend said.
Paula looked at her and smiled.
Alongside volunteering at the YMCA almost on a daily basis and working part time in childcare at Upper Canada, Paula is also taking the tenured track at Tyndale College in Toronto, Ontario to get her Master’s degree in clinical counselling. She continues to better herself physically and mentally at any chance she can.
Since starting her relationship with the YMCA in 2011, Paula has gained many friendships and has become more confident with herself and her physical appearance. What makes her give back to the community isn’t any specific thing; giving back has always come naturally to her. She believes in giving back and serving others before you serve yourself.
Growing up in Labrador they didn’t have many programs for kids, so when Paula became connected with the local Christian church, they were the ones that inspired Paula to help children and people, and this drove her to work for non-profit organizations. Paula has done many things for the YMCA to help the younger community, but as much as she has helped the YMCA and other volunteers, she believes that they have helped her and have inspired her just as much.
Because of an encouraging friend that she met through the YMCA, Paula was able to run her first half-marathon and complete the marathon within a great time. Not only has she done the half marathon, but she has also joined a women’s squash league at the Barrie Community Centre with some friends she has met through the YMCA.
Paula has continued to have a passion for people and to help others in any way she can. She loves to encourage people and doesn’t believe that she is different from anyone else. Because of changing careers and going back to college, Paula has had to delay some of her volunteering with other organizations but has promised herself:
“As soon as I get my feet wet with going back to college and getting comfortable with the work that I am given, I will continue to help and inspire the community members with and through the YMCA.”
After getting her Master’s degree in clinical counselling, Paula’s biggest goal is to help people with any problems they may have and help them become whole once again. Even when Paula is sometimes unable to volunteer at the YMCA, she continues visit her family away from home.