National Volunteer Week: Ingenium volunteers stay connected despite COVID-19

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Ingenium - Canada's Museums of Science and Innovation
Volunteer Coordinator Cédric St-Amour hosts the first remote coffee break with Project North Star volunteers via ZOOM on Thursday, April 2, 2020.

Each year, National Volunteer Week provides Ingenium with the chance to acknowledge and celebrate all of the volunteers who enhance the unique visitor experiences we provide across our three museums — the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum. This year, our circumstances are quite different; our museums are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So to kick off National Volunteer Week 2020, the Ingenium Channel reached out to our Volunteer Coordinator and a few of our enthusiastic volunteers to ask:

What are your creative solutions for staying socially connected and/or to keep volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A man in a black t-shirt smiles at the camera.

“Now more than ever, people need to connect with their friends and family to avoid social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Socializing is one of the top reasons why people volunteer. As volunteer coordinator, I'm happy to offer Ingenium volunteers a virtual coffee break on their regular volunteer day via a teleconferencing application. My colleagues who work with volunteers are also joining the conversation. As one volunteer put it, ‘I think that we need to do everything we can to maintain a semblance of normal life.’ Every little action counts.”

~ Cédric St-Amour
Volunteer Coordinator


A bearded man with glasses, a black hat, and a red-and-black checkered jacket stands in front of a tree.

“I anticipated the pandemic would require some type of shutdown order from the government, so I prepared stuff I could work on from home. I’ve being doing research on the Canada Science and Technology Museum’s ex-CNR locomotive 247, preparing documentation to go with about 100 photographs I took of its various parts before we all left. That alone will likely take me several weeks, but I also have quite a few other hobbies and an energetic Labrador Retriever who needs a lot of exercise."

~ Michael Gilligan
Bytown Railway Society member and Canada Science and Technology Museum volunteer, assisting with the restoration and maintenance of the museum’s railway artifacts

“The creative ways we are staying socially connected during the COVID-19 include using Google Hangouts to connect weekly with friends whom we cannot personally see. We also have virtual neighbourhood gatherings on Zoom, a video chat platform, to stay informed of the occurrences within our neighbourhood and to see if anyone requires supplies. Ronan stays connected by hosting sessions on video game platforms, so he may talk to his friends and keep updated on their status.” 

~ Sydney and Ronan O'Shaughnessy

Volunteers for Ingenium special events and Canada Science and Technology Museum summer camps

A young man with an Ingenium vest and name badge smiles at the camera.

“I volunteer at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Exploratek. I’m staying socially connected by using social media, email, phone calls, and text messages. I don't do Skype, Facebook Live, YouTube, Instagram Live or FaceTime, but those are additional ways to stay socially connected with friends, family, and peers.”

~ Trevor Charlebois
Volunteer in Exploratek at the Canada Science and Technology Museum

A man with glasses, white hair, and a white beard smiles at the camera; a red wall is visible behind him.

“Due to our age (old) we tend to use that "old" standby — the land line. We enjoy being able to hear the voices and get a feeling for how others are doing and, as a card crafter, Kathy sends cards to people that she doesn't see often.  We have used Skype a couple of times but have been told that is also "old hat" so we guess it came and went before we even knew it. Texting on our one cell phone is also used a bit with those who really aren't able to do face to face or voice.”

~ Laurie and Kathy Riley
Members of the Prep Group at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum

Image of a young woman with a dark coat and light-coloured hijab, with a graphical flower imposed on the image.

“To stay in social contact, I like talking to my friends using Snapchat. After looking at their stories, I better understand their life during confinement at home. This information makes our conversation more interesting. For instance, my friend tried to dye her hair blue during March break, but it did not work! During this period, I learned that you can do a lot of things at home even if you sometimes think it’s boring.” 

~ Karmel Awad
Bénévole pour les évènements spéciaux d’Ingenium


A man in a red shirt and ball cap smiles warmly at the camera.

“While in home isolation during the pandemic, I am continuing my volunteer work on copyright research associated with the Ken Molson aviation image collection for the Canada Science and Technology Museum. One of contributors to this large collection was Wop May, a First World War flying ace who was in a dogfight with the Red Baron — interesting material! While it’s all about physical distancing, eliminating social distancing is important to keep our spirits up; so some of the volunteers in the Archives meet virtually for coffee every Wednesday using the Zoom app."

~ Tony Rybczynski 
Canada Science and Technology Museum Archives Volunteer


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Sonia Mendes

Sonia Mendes is the English Writer/Editor for Ingenium. She loves digging behind the scenes to tell the quirky, colourful stories of museum life and all things related to science and innovation.