Volunteer week: Contributing to something “out of the ordinary”

My chores at the barn include a lot of cleaning. Here I am sweeping the floor to push the hay to the cows.

At Ingenium, National Volunteer Week (April 19-25) provides an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate all of the volunteers who enhance the unique visitor experiences we provide across all three museums — the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum. The Ingenium Channel recently asked Francine Bouchard what makes the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum such a unique venue for volunteering.

Over the years, I visited the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum several times with my family. My daughters also participated in the summer camps a few times when they were in elementary school. I remember telling myself when I came to pick them up that I would like to volunteer there once retired.

An old photo shows kids taking a tractor-pulled hayride.

When I was young, my family could often count on relatives to help out with the hay harvest which made the task much more enjoyable, as shown in this photo from the 70s. 

I always found this museum to be a nice, peaceful place. Every time I go there, it brings back happy memories because my parents owned a dairy farm where I had a wonderful childhood.

I have been volunteering at the museum once a week since the spring of 2019. Usually, I help out with administrative tasks in the morning and then do tasks related to basic animal care in the afternoon.

During my day, I have the chance to work with museum employees and discuss various aspects of their jobs. I have had the opportunity to learn more about different positions, including administrative staff, guides and interpreters, breeders, and the personnel that develops educational programs and visitor programs.

An old image shows a young girl pouring milk out of a large, silver bucket and into a tank.

As all children raised on a farm, I took part in the daily chores like carrying the milk to the bulk tank.

The work I do varies. I can just as well be filing bills in the computer system, brushing a donkey, giving hay to the cows, giving a bottle to a calf, cleaning the barn floor or testing the humidity of the silage. I also had the chance to attend veterinary visits and write down information in the cows’ health files. The employees of the museum are always willing to share their knowledge in a pleasant atmosphere. 

The museum also needs volunteers to help the employees during special events, such as Halloween, the Ice Cream Festival, and Easter Weekend. I participated in the Halloween event last fall. I assisted the guides during a craft activity; my role was to give directives to decorate a small pumpkin, supply necessary materials to the kids and parents accompanying them, as well as clean up the tables between groups. I plan on getting involved in other special events this year.

A woman smiles as she holds a newborn lamb.

As a volunteer at the museum, I have the privilege of working with a variety of animals, and the opportunity to learn basic animal care. In this picture, I am holding a two-day old lamb which I just bottle-fed.

While I really enjoyed my work as a chemist with the RCMP and CBSA, I am happy to have the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary, something completely different than what I was doing in my professional life. 

Volunteering at the museum allows me to socialize, be helpful, and to gain new knowledge. It is rewarding to participate in museum life, especially when I feel that my little contributions are appreciated by the employees.

Profile picture for user Francine Bouchard
Francine Bouchard

Francine was raised on a farm in the Outaouais region. After pursuing studies in Chemistry at the University of Ottawa, she stayed in Ottawa to establish her family. During her career, she worked for the Forensic Laboratory Services of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as well as for the Customs Analysis Section of the Canada Border Services Agency. For the last few years, she has been enjoying retirement with her husband.