By Meaghan Thurston
Both McGill and the citywide Centraide campaigns kicked off earlier today, beginning with the March of 1,000 umbrellas that left the Roddick Gates at noon. To get in the spirit of the Centraide campaign, the McGill Reporter sat down with Eyal Baruch, Assistant Manager of Events, Athletics and Recreation, to explore his lifelong passion for volunteerism and his belief in the importance of supporting Centraide.
For Baruch, volunteerism is a family thing. “I was raised to volunteer and I have always volunteered – whether it was at my community pool growing up, or as a school coach on my kids’ soccer team, then with the police, and with my kids’ school boards. And I am now on the Board of Directors at my kids’ CEGEP John Abbott College,” he says with laugh.
Eyal is presently also a volunteer committee member for McGill’s Centraide campaign, and he is a longstanding volunteer with a Centraide-supported agency, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Montreal. In 2015, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Montreal received $127, 237 in funding from Centraide, and the West Island Branch received $129, 160 to support the day-to-day operation of the organizations.
Why did you decide to become a Big Brother?
I have three boys and as they reached their teen years, and I was no longer coaching their soccer team, I felt I needed something new to do. I kept noticing advertising for Big Brothers and I thought, why not? I can make a difference in one person’s life.
When I began volunteering with my little brother he was seven years old [he’s now 15], and he was very quiet in the beginning. At the time he was living in a foster home with five other children. Visiting him there, I saw that there were a lot of discipline issues going on – he was grounded a lot. I came to know that he’d been moving from foster home to foster home.
By spending more time with him, we began to talk about the “real issues” that he was facing – at the time his mom wasn’t able to take care of him. I learned that my role was just to support him.
What has impressed you most about volunteering for Big Brothers?
Volunteering for Big Brothers is a big commitment, but it’s worth it. To begin, there are months of security checks and interviews with the organization – which is a good thing.
I volunteer every week for two hours for Big Brothers, and while much of this volunteerism is about just being there a support, it is also about doing activities together with your little brother, which honestly can get costly for the Big Brother. What is wonderful about volunteering for Big Brothers is that the organization is always trying to make event tickets available for volunteers and to organize BBQs – and to provide this kind of support they have to do a lot of their own fundraising. They also run a school mentoring program, which is another important aspect to the work they do.
How important is Centraide funding to Big Brothers Big Sisters?
“I became keen on joining the Centraide campaign committee here at McGill because I have seen the difference Centraide has made to an organization I believe in.
If Centraide was not there for Big Brothers, it could not function. I was on the Board of Directors of Big Brothers for three years and I saw how important this funding was for the organization. Each year, when an organization like Big Brothers applies for Centraide funding, they must put together a case for the funds and they need to show the impact of their programs. I can tell you, we really need that funding to do our work.
What would you say to someone who asks, “But, why should McGill support Centraide?”
I would say that the support of big organizations like McGill is important because Centraide does not have the resources to campaign in all areas of Montreal. Having the support of McGill in raising funds during the annual campaign makes all the difference.
What’s in it for you – why do you continue to volunteer so much of your time?
The way I see it, there are 24 hours in the day, so there are at least a few hours a week I can give back, and my wife of 30 years encourages me. She helped me for 15 years when we volunteered for Dollard soccer. I want my kids to see me volunteering and giving back to society. Already I can see they are leaning toward volunteerism. One works at a residence for the elderly and he’s always making an extra effort. Another was in leadership program after school organizing community events. He also loved to spend time with my little brother when I brought him home. I guess you could say that I can see the kindness rubbing off!
How is your little brother doing now?
His mom worked really hard to regain custody of him and he now lives with her. So there’s a really nice story there. Because I am not there 24 hours a day, I see my role as a motivator of sorts – I am always pushing the importance of school. Basically I see it as my job to say, “school, school, school!” whenever he needs a boost.