Med student volunteers help connect the community to Carole Anne’s Place
Sitting down to talk with McMaster medical students Etri Kocaqi and Nam Do will make you want to roll up your sleeves and throw yourself into volunteering. Their enthusiasm for community service is infectious.
Along with fellow student Danya Sanderson, Etri and Nam are co-chairs of the Mac Med volunteering group, a student-led initiative to volunteer with housing service providers in the Hamilton area and build connections in the community. As part of our celebration of National Volunteer Week, we sat down with Etri and Nam to hear about their experiences volunteering with YWCA Hamilton at Carole Anne’s Place (CAP).
Nam and Etri began their medicine program at McMaster during the pandemic, and the move to virtual learning brought about a drive to seek opportunities to volunteer and work with people in-person. A newcomer and the daughter of newcomers, respectively, Nam and Etri both hold strong values in community and service. Nam says she “views medicine as an extension of community service.”
Their work with CAP began with addressing the food insecurity faced by clients though a bi-weekly food drop off donated by local grocery stores. As time went on, Etri and Nam continued to build rapport with CAP clients and sought to address needs as they arose, implementing art programming and facilitating access to health care.
Etri and Nam identify the most important aspect of their work with CAP as being able to create positive, associations with health care providers and the health care system. Most unhoused folks or those facing housing precarity face judgement and stigma when accessing health care. Providing a consistent, reliable face for health care will hopefully empower CAP clients to feel safer when seeking care.
Nam and Etri also say that volunteering with CAP has given them a perspective that will make them better physicians as they continue on in their careers.
“Anyone who works in health care should at least once visit their local shelters to actually know how your community’s resources actually work and what people will have available to them when they leave that hospital,” says Etri.
Danya, Nam, and Etri are preparing to pass the torch to a new trio of co-chairs and they move on to begin their residencies. They’re excited to see the program continue under the leadership of its three new passionate co-chairs, Emily Domerchie, Erik Ge, and Austine Wang, and hope that they can continue to build capacity through the Mac Med volunteering group.
Even though they’re moving on to their residencies, Etri and Nam feel they’ve built a community and found family with the staff and clients of CAP.
“The staff at YWCA Hamilton are to encouraging and dedicated,” say Etri, “and the CAP clients have this incredible fighting spirit.”
Thank you to Etri, Nam, Danya, and all the Mac Med volunteers who have continued to show up for the folks that use our services. The impact of your support and dedication is immeasurable, and we’re honoured to have friends like you in the community.