Written by: Selwynne Hawkins
“I feel like I am making a difference to people who are very scared of coming to court, I can make them feel like they are not alone or discriminated against, and that I am there to help them.”
Oxana Gryshchenko has always been fascinated by the legal system. Her search for relevant volunteer opportunities brought her to the Okotoks Court House—where she was redirected to Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary’s office. Shortly after her 18th birthday, Oxana started volunteering for the organization in the Adult Criminal Court Program on the Case Management Office floor at the Calgary Courts Centre.
Oxana is currently a student in the Legal Assistant program at SAIT. Between her studies and her volunteer commitments, she loves to read historical books, paint, and play tennis.
What have you learned by volunteering for Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary?
I definitely developed the skill of thinking on my feet and being able to come up with a correct and relevant answer to clients’ questions in a short period of time. I gained some knowledge in the legal system which has served me as an asset in starting my Legal Assistant program.
How do you feel about your role with the organization?
I feel like I am making a difference to people who are very scared of coming to court because they do not know what to expect. I am very happy now that I am a volunteer at the Calgary Courts Centre, assisting people with their charges and helping to make their lives a little bit less stressful.
My role as a volunteer and the service that I provide is very important to clients, especially to the first time offenders. I inform clients of the court process, what the next steps would be after their court appearance, and mentally support the clients so they are not stressed about being in court. I provide them with appropriate referrals and make sure to help them as much as I can. I make them feel like they are not alone or discriminated against, and that I am there to help them.
Volunteering makes me feel better because I helped someone with their issue, but sometimes it also makes me a little sad because there is a limit to the help that I can provide people with.
What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering for Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary?
Volunteering makes me feel like I am using my time productively by helping other people and making connections. Elizabeth Fry Society is a good place to contribute your time to because of the experience you get, the people you meet, and the clients you get to help.