Wellness step #6: Give some of your time
Every year during the holidays, Bota Bota employees invest themselves in several organizations to give some of their time voluntarily.
The house of Le Chaînon appears in the veiled Montreal sky like a huge ship, firmly anchored on the Plateau Mont-Royal. A small team of massage therapists and beauticians meet on this gray November day to give a few hours of tenderness and respite to the residents of this shelter.
Le Chaînon, a refuge
We are welcomed by Alexandre Martin, volunteer coordinator, who leads us directly to the large living room, a huge multipurpose room with large windows. An air of classical music on the radio accompanies his words and gestures. The massage therapists set up, and the beauticians are led to the adjacent small chapel.
The Chaînon is currently the main housing resource for women in difficulty in Quebec. Alexandre explains that the profile of local residents is extremely varied: women who have lost their homes following a fire or flood, in a situation of prolonged homelessness, domestic violence or substance abuse. “We must not stigmatize these situations, they can unfortunately happen to everyone,” he says.
As an organized hive, Le Chaînon contains several floors, all intended for different types of stays. The night reception, in the basement, is free and accommodates women in precarious homelessness, the 4th offers free beds and meals for a short-term period of 4 to 8 weeks and the third floor is home to those who will remain for a long-term period, of 3 months to a year, in exchange for a small portion of their salary. The women are accompanied throughout their journey by specialized workers, present on site, day and night. At each stage of the residents’ stay, they actively listen to them in order to guide them to the best of their abilities, making their presence indispensable; “They are the heart of Le Chaînon, I have a lot of respect for the work they do,” adds Alexandre.
The life of these women is in some cases filled with hardship and some situations are difficult to solve. There are, however, beautiful stories here; “One of these women entered the third floor, after having spent almost 5 years in night reception. It’s a renewal, and it’s so nice to see her.” Alexander’s eyes light up with pride as he looks back at this memory. This is one of the situations that makes his work unique; seeing the residents change, for the better, over time.
The importance of touch through care
The chairs placed at the entrances of the living room and chapel gradually fill up. At first a bit shy, the residents gently open up like flowers at the touch of the Bota Bota volunteers.
In the chapel, the intimate atmosphere gives way to confessions. Between two layers of nail polish, they give us a look into their past, with disarming simplicity. Prison, work, mental health … the difficult topics are numerous and yet told with a smile. The wisdom that emanates from the words of some moves. It’s a moment of reflection for everyone, lulled by the muted sounds of the adjoining refectory.
The smile of one of the participants is contagious. As the residents and workers walk by, she cannot help but proudly deploy her fingers like fans, covered in two different colors. A unique choice that does not leave her indifferent.
Another hesitates a long time between a dark red and a fuchsia. Delighted to have managed to grow her nails this long, she opts for the pink shade that will sublimate the tattoos on her phalanges.
In the living room, high screens create a cocoon around massage therapists and residents while the classical music in the background, acts as a lullaby. Back to back, almost creating the shape of a star, the massage therapists orchestrate a waltz in silence, one gesture at a time. After a 30-minute massage, the residents emerge from a state of pronounced well-being. Hair undone, their sleepy eyes have softened, sharing their gratitude with us.
Alexandre tells me about the first time he saw what massage therapy could bring to the residents: “One of them was just coming out of her first massage. She was crying tears of happiness. For some of them, it has been a long time since they have been physically touched this way.” Touch, an important vector of gentleness and compassion that brings them exceptional comfort. “I think we cannot imagine the good that it must do to them. “
Volunteering, one gesture at a time
As the day ends, the small team of Bota Bota packs up, moved by so many emotions.
“We are fortunate to have the support of the community and of so many companies like yours, who are aware of the special needs of certain people, and who are willing to give their time to help them.” Says Alexandre.
Bota Bota becomes a new link in the long chain of more than a thousand employees a year who come to support the community of Le Chaînon.
A special thanks to Alexandre Martin and his team present on site and Thibault Carron, our photographer that day.