Azan is a youth community ambassador at WoodGreen Community Services. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, he has worked with other volunteer community ambassadors in Taylor-Massey to share important information about COVID-19 with his peers and neighbours. This has involved knocking on doors, connecting with residents by phone and email, and conducting outreach to ensure residents are aware of and able to access pop-up vaccine clinics.
In June 2021, Azan moderated a special Youth and Families edition of East Toronto Health Partners’ Community Q&A on the COVID-19 Vaccine. The event featured medical experts from Michael Garron Hospital, East Toronto Family Practice Network and VHA Home HealthCare. Community ambassadors’ efforts have helped significantly decrease COVID-19 cases in the neighbourhoods they live.
“For the past 5 months, I’ve been volunteering at vaccine pop-up clinics (as a Woodgreen Youth Ambassador) throughout the city, especially in East Toronto” Azan says, “The first pop-up clinic I volunteered at was at the Crescent Town pop-up clinic on May 19th. My job was to hand out water bottles to thirsty people in line waiting to get their vaccine, and as you can predict, the line was long”.
That experience inspired Azan, who knew he wanted to do more to help. “That was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience, and I definitely want to continue helping at vaccine clinics, as I want to see the world go back to how it was pre-COVID. The clinics I’ve volunteered at are (mostly) at Crescent Town, Dentonia Park, Joshua Cronkwright Parkette, Shoppers World and Scotiabank Arena. I’ve also done some door-to-door flyering for pop-up clinics and I’ve even been a moderator for a vaccine Q&A info session with professionals from the medical field!”
When asked about what makes someone a good neighbour, Azan had insights far beyond his years. “I think a good neighbour means to support your neighbours when they need the help, or looking out for them” he said. “But if possible, I think that a good neighbour also impacts their community in a way that there’s a mutual appreciation for how that neighbour helped their community. At the end of the day, I’d think that a good neighbour puts the benefits of the community first, and everything else behind.”
When asked what the best part of volunteering is, Azan said, “Honestly, I think it’s just seeing the smiles on people’s faces or the thanks I get from people. I’m glad when people seem happy that they got their vaccine! I’d say that helping my community also made me a better person and a better leader. I’ve been more appreciative of what I have, and I’ve been more humble”
Azan knows that there are lots of ways to get involved, even if you think you may be too young.
“As a youth, it may seem like I have little to no impact on my community, and I’m sure other people feel like that, but I think youth have as much if not more of an impact than adults” Azan noted, “Youth have a fresher perspective on the world and after all, we are the future leaders of the world, so why not start leading now?”
“People keep asking me how I volunteer at pop-up clinics, but people don’t realize vaccine pop-up clinics aren’t the only way you can help out! There are several organizations you can get in touch with such as Woodgreen, or you can also do something as simple as donating to local organizations.”