Student wins awards for volunteering

Miroshynkova receiving the Joe Moylan Award last June at the Sheridan School of Public Safety Award Ceremony.

Miroshynkova receiving the Joe Moylan Award last June at the Sheridan School of Public Safety Award Ceremony.



It was her first call on the line. She hadn’t known what to expect but it definitely was not this. As a volunteer at the Call Centre Oakville Jane Miroshynkova was supposed to take distress calls and help make them better, but this woman was just yelling at her. “Oh my god I am horrible at this,” thought Miroshynkova. She wanted to help people but clearly she was not helping. “Wow, should I stop now?”

That was April 2013. Two years later, Miroshynkova, a Sheridan Private and Public Investigation student would be named by GenNext Oakville as one of its Top 20 under 40. The following month she would be the first Sheridan student to receive the Joe Moylan Award of Excellence as the province’s top Police Foundations student.

At eight-years-old Miroshynkova moved from Ukraine with her parents and older brother. Canada back then was exciting in comparison to Ukraine. “It was the ’90s so Ukraine didn’t have a lot, even Dollarama was exciting to me, I thought there were so many toys.”

She remembers noticing mangoes could be bought in the winter in Canada, a fruit only available seasonally in Ukraine during that time. Ukraine had been part of the Soviet Union, which started to collapse in the late ’80s and by the time the country became independent in the ’90s the economy was depressed and what some saw as a lawless place.

Miroshynkova decided she wanted to be a police officer when she was 12 years old. When she was 14 she started working out because she knew she would need strength in her future career. She found kickboxing and loved it. It’s been 10 years now since she started.

Miroshynkova’s Ukrainian accent is slight now. She says some of her friends pick it up and some don’t. Petite, with brown hair golden with highlights and bangs that touch the tops of her blue eyes, Miroshynkova’s looks are sweet and unassuming.

For the 24-year-old the acknowledgment of her volunteer service was the best part of the whole award experience. “It was encouraging. Nice to know I wasn’t just doing it and nobody was recognizing it. It was nice to know that people cared.”

Program coordinator Gary Galbraith nominated Miroshynkova for the two awards because in her final year she graduated with a 4.0 GPA while volunteering at five different organizations, working out six times a week, holding two part-time jobs and getting a decent night’s sleep.

“I didn’t skimp on sleep,” Miroshynkova said with a laugh.

Last year Miroshynkova volunteered with the St. John Ambulance, Burlington Humane Society, Distress Centre Oakville, Sheridan College and with the Toronto Police Service. “In terms of what she has done to help the community she has been extraordinary and outstanding,” says Galbraith.

She started with the Medical First Response Unit of St. John Ambulance in January 2014. She remembers once carrying a woman who was losing consciousness into an ambulance. “She was practically falling on me and I had to carry her to the ambulance and take her blood pressure. She was a tiny woman but we have steps to get into the ambulance.”

She has been at the Burlington Humane Society since 2013. Unlike her other volunteer services, her work there, which includes reception duties, cleaning and feeding animals, is completely unrelated to her future career. “I like animals so it was important to incorporate something I like.”

Miroshynkova has volunteered at Distress Centre Oakville the longest, since April 2013. She takes calls from people with mental illness, in distress or people who want to commit suicide. She says the work is difficult but is the most rewarding.

“It feels really nice sometimes. Like this time a women was calling me and crying and telling me a story and at the end she was laughing with me. I felt so good about it.”

Miroshynkova volunteered with Sheridan’s Accessible Learning Services in her final year because she wanted to do more than just study at school. “I wanted to leave feeling like I actually did something.”

She has been with the Toronto Police Service since September 2014 volunteering as an auxilliary police officer. She helps out at fundraisers or at parades and public events.

Working with the police service helped Miroshynkova stand out from her classmates. “The program recommended her for the [Joe Moylan] award because of her involvement with the Toronto Police Service, which is a major time commitment and an excellent contribution to public safety in our community,” says Galbraith.

Miroshynkova admits juggling a schedule like this wasn’t easy. A typical week for her would be four to five days in the classroom, one of those being job placement. In between she would work her two steady jobs: loss prevention at Sears and as a teller at TD Canada Trust. After working out every day except for one, Miroshynkova would split the remaining time in her week doing homework and volunteering. “It was fun. There were just times where I didn’t realize I took on as much as I did. I worked myself pretty hard. I had no life almost.”

Brenda Buchanan, manager of volunteers and operations at Distress Centre Oakville, describes Miroshynkova as a very committed volunteer, focused on her goals, great personality, very compassionate and someone who works well on the phone lines.

She says Miroshynkova’s empathy is key. “She’s done so well on the phone line because she cares about people,” she said in a telephone interview.

To work on the lines Buchanan looks for volunteers who are non-judgmental, good listeners, compassionate, feel empathy and are willing to learn active listening and can stay calm in a crisis situation. They also have to like talking to people.

Although the centre gets many calls from people contemplating suicide and who are in distress, Buchanan says a big part of the service is just being a friend. Most of calls that come in are from people who are lonely.

“Loneliness can lead to depression, loneliness can kill over time, so we really want people to connect so that they’re not feeling alone,” says Buchanan.

Not only did Miroshynkova work the mandatory 144 volunteer hours in her first year but she took on extra training to improve her skills, attended social and fundraising events and in her second year trained to mentor and support new volunteers through their first calls. “She’s very supportive of the centre in many ways, not just by being on the phone line,” says Buchanan.

This Mentorship is a new thing for the centre. When Miroshynkova first started in 2013 they didn’t have the same kind of support system in place for her first call. She says she likes to tell other first time volunteers about the call and angry woman because people have issues and sometimes there’s only so much you can do.

Since that call Miroshynkova has dealt with some high-risk callers says Buchanan and throughout she has remained level-headed, focused and calm.

“I found it almost calming, speaking with people, I can relate to them almost. I feel like I can really listen to them and it’s not panicked,” says Miroshynkova.

She trains other volunteers at the Burlington Humane Society and the Medical First Response Unit of St. John Ambulance.

Out of the five organizations she feels she has had the biggest impact at the Distress Centre Oakville. “There are so many phone calls where a woman will start off crying or telling you they want to commit suicide and then you can kind of talk to them and help them see a chance.”

This experience is unique to the centre says Buchanan, “I often tell people after they’ve made a call, that you made a significance difference in someone else’s life today and there’s not a lot of volunteer opportunities where you can do that by connecting one on one with people.”

Buchanan who began volunteering as a teenager in the 1970s feels volunteerism “makes the community a healthier place by making us connected.”

It’s also good for the economy. A 2013 report by TD Bank called An Economist’s Case for Volunteering estimated the economic value of volunteering in Canada to be $53.4 billion, around three per cent of Canada’s GDP, the same size as Manitoba’s economy.

Miroshynkova has waited a long time to be an officer and now for her all that’s left to do is hand out her resume with an impressive awards and extracurricular section. “That was really nice what happened here. We celebrated what someone had done for no pay, a volunteer opportunity that helped other people. That was really great,” says Galbraith.


Click on the map to see the five locations Miroshnukova volunteered at in 2015.

Click on the map to see the five locations Miroshnykova volunteered in 2015.