By the time mother-daughter team Diana and Keidi Pushi arrived at their latest volunteer project – teaching life skills to high school students in an underprivileged community in Albania – they had already left a mark on the community through various Toronto volunteer organizations.
A senior finance professional working in public service, Diana has actively volunteered on projects ranging from founding a grassroots movement trying to inject more innovation into the Toronto Public Service to a program mentoring recent immigrants.
“Volunteering is about making things better, and I believe that we can make things better all the time by going the extra mile,” said Diana, who, despite a full professional schedule, is always involved in volunteer projects and often serves as an unofficial life coach to younger volunteers.
Her 21-year-old daughter Keidi, a Ryerson University Nutrition student, started volunteering at a young age with Big Brothers and Sisters of Canada, and is now involved in Cultivate Toronto, a program aiming to connect Torontonians with locally grown fresh food.
At first, like a lot of her friends, Keidi said she volunteered to build her resume and improve career prospects, but it quickly became evident the benefits she liked most were of a different nature.
“Volunteering changes you. Your life becomes enriched. You meet a lot of different people, and you connect on different levels,” Keidi said, on the phone from South Africa where she is working with high school students in an impoverished community as part of a sister project to Golden Future Albania.
Golden Future Albania is special for the Albanian-born mother and daughter who moved to Toronto in 1999, when Keidi was just eight. Now past the difficult early years of the immigration experience and strongly footed in Canada professionally and culturally, they, and others like them, are working to bring back to their country of origin the best Canada has to offer – real life experiences that expose high school students to the skills needed for success in the future.
The 40-member GFA team is mostly, but not exclusively, made up of young Canadians of Albanian descent; Diana said her work with the organization serves just as much to help Canadian university-aged volunteers and recent graduates as much as it does the ultimate goal of improving the lives of Albanian high school students.
“In this economic climate, many recent graduates are full of knowledge and ideas but have nowhere to apply them,” Diana said, adding she has been teaching the volunteers high-quality project management skills through their work at GFA, creating much needed hands-on experience. “I have lots of faith in the young generation. They will change the world for the better.”
That type of hope is very evident in Keidi, and the mother-daughter relationship is very strong. Though GFA is the first time they are volunteering together, they say they always support each other morally on other endeavors.
“We share inspiring stories almost daily,” Diana said. “We recharge each other that way.”
Vera Held, who chairs the pilot project for Golden Future Albania, said having a mother and daughter working together as part of the GFA team has been inspiring for everyone involved.
“Volunteerism is a value first learned in the home, and Diana has done a stellar job,” she said. “Keidi and all our other Y generation teammates will learn first-hand through our project what it means to build community.”
It’s a message that hasn’t been lost on Keidi. Her advice for her peers is simple: “Get involved. Help as much as you can. Open yourself to new people and what they can teach you.”
- To find out more about Golden Future Albania visit www.goldenfuture.ca and goldenfuturealbania.blogspot.ca.
- Encourage family members to join you in volunteering, since volunteerism is first learned at home.
- For immigrants, transmitting Canadian knowledge to your country of origin is itself a form of remittance.
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