Millions of Toronto residents have already received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, despite high vaccination rates, it’s hard for some residents to make it to a vaccine clinic to get their shot.
This is especially true in some neighbourhoods, like Taylor-Massey, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the city and where people face a number of barriers to getting vaccinated. Some of them include language barriers, lack of access to technology, or not having the ability to take time off of work.
However, a dedicated group of volunteers called community ambassadors, who live in Taylor-Massey, have been on the ground and are working hard to get these numbers up. They’ve been working with community service organizations, like WoodGreen, assisting at vaccination clinics, doing over-the-phone outreach in multiple languages, and even going door-to-door throughout the community to help people to get vaccinated.
Meet two of the dedicated community ambassadors who are volunteering with WoodGreen
[caption id="attachment_5217" align="aligncenter" width="1088"] Volunteer Community Ambassador Farjana Yasmin[/caption]
Farjana Yasmin started volunteering as a community ambassador three months ago, after seeing ambassadors in action at a vaccine clinic.
“When I went to get my vaccine, I saw my friends talking to people,” says Yasmin, a mother of two who lives in Crescent Town, which is part of the Taylor-Massey neighbourhood. “I used to work in customer service and thought it was interesting. So, later I joined them.”
As an ambassador, Yasmin reaches out to people and gives people information, including dates, times, and locations of pop-up vaccine clinics, and to clarify any questions. She says that community ambassadors, who are from the community and can speak the languages that residents speak, help to alleviate any concerns that people might have about getting vaccinated.
[caption id="attachment_5218" align="aligncenter" width="1088"] Volunteer Community Ambassador Farjana Yasmin goes door-to-door in a building in Crescent Town to get the word out about getting vaccinated.[/caption]
“A friendly face makes a difference,” she says. “And if you explain things in someone’s own language, it makes people more comfortable.”
Yasmin adds that most people she’s encountered really appreciated the community ambassadors and the work they are doing. For her, that appreciation makes volunteering worthwhile.
“It makes us feel good to see that we did something and that we helped someone.”
Fifteen-year-old Crescent Town resident Azan Alnur has been volunteering since April 2020 with Crescent Town Youth. The group focused on pandemic health promotion and continued engagement with the vaccine rollout.
As a youth community ambassador, Alnur has assisted at vaccine pop-up clinics by handing out bottles of water to people waiting in line and helping with line control. He’s also gone door-to-door in buildings handing out flyers and booking vaccine appointments.
“It gets tedious, but it's definitely worth it seeing the smiles on people's faces (or through their masks at least),” he says.
He believes that youth community ambassadors, like himself, play a vital role in helping to get their peers vaccinated.
“Youth ambassadors encourage others the same as us in our communities to get vaccinated and show them why it is important,” he says. “I don't think that we'd have as many vaccinated youth now if we didn't have youth ambassadors.”
Alnur hasn’t volunteered as much recently due to breaking his hand. He wants to have a speedy recovery so he can go back to his role as a youth community ambassador, helping his neighbours to get vaccinated.
“Hopefully, my hand heals fast so I can get back to helping in whatever way possible!”
Thanks so much to Farjana, Azan, and the many other community ambassadors from WoodGreen and other organizations who are making a difference! Additionally, thank you to the City of Toronto’s Vaccine Engagement Grant for making this engagement work possible.