Meet Rafal – YWCA Hamilton’s 2021-2022 Volunteer of the Year!

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YWCA Hamilton is proud to announce the winner of our 2021 – 2022 Volunteer of the Year Award, Rafal Tomczuk!

Rafal, a registered nurse who works in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, is a dedicated and caring volunteer whose passion, empathy and commitment has made a huge impact on the life and work of YWCA Hamilton.

Rafal – or Raf, as he’s known around YWCA Hamilton – has been a volunteer at our annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event for 10 years, helping to raise thousands of dollars to help those who have been impacted by gender-based violence.

Over the years, Raf has served as a Team Captain for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, he has participated in media opportunities to promote critical fundraising initiatives and in 2021, served as a Co-Emcee for the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Award Ceremony. He was also instrumental in launching our ‘Tap to End Violence’ campaign, helping to place Tip Tap touchless fundraising portals in business around Hamilton.

“It’s incredible. It’s a great surprise. I’m overwhelmed. To be nominated and win – as much as it feels great to be acknowledged, it also just motivates me to be the volunteer that represents all the other volunteers and their legacy,” Raf said.

Ending violence is a cause that is incredibly close to Raf’s heart. While growing up in Poland, Rafal and his mother experienced abuse at the hands of his father, which led his mother to immigrate to Canada to start a new chapter in their lives.

Rafal first became involved with volunteering at Walk a Mile in Her Shoes to honour his mother, as the event took place on her birthday.

“My Mom is an immigrant woman, and we have some lived experienced with domestic violence because of my father. We immigrated here, and life wasn’t always easy,” he said.

“When I was thinking about this, it was about honouring my Mom – I wasn’t really familiar with the programs at the YWCA at the time,” said Rafal. “But through volunteering here, and learning about what a great need we have here in Hamilton – I wanted to be part of this legacy. I wanted to honour my Mom, and I wanted to use our experience in a positive way. And it kept rolling from there.”

Sarah Ernest, YWCA Hamilton’s Director of Philanthropy and Communications and Rafal’s nominator for the Volunteer of the Year Award, says that she cannot think of a more deserving recipient of this honour than Rafal.

“His strength is his compassion and his unique ability to understand the diverse perspective of the people we serve,” said Sarah. “Raf pours his heart into his volunteerism at YWCA Hamilton and because of his leadership, countless lives have been positively impacted.”

“Because of Raf’s contributions, our YWCA Hamilton is better, our community is better, and the lives of the people we serve are better.”

For Rafal, volunteering is about extending the same empathy and connections to others that he first experienced as an immigrant to Canada.

“I was given a chance when I arrived here – without speaking a single word of English – because of the foundation that others laid for me: welcoming immigrants into the community, having opportunities to learn another language, and having social resources to settle,” he said.

“So, I would like to repay this to everybody else. Volunteering, especially at the YWCA, is very real for me, and that’s why I’ve been doing this for ten years.”

Thank you so much for all of your hard work, Rafal! Congratulations!

Raf and Sarah standing side by side

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