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by Chi Nguyen

A Ryerson student has received the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers for his efforts to help the elderly in Mississauga’s Chinese community.

Jeffery Siu, a fourth-year social work student, received the medal Oct. 6 at Queen’s Park for his outstanding contributions to the Carefirst Seniors and Community Services Association.

The mission of the agency, operating since 1976, is to ensure Chinese seniors “enjoy independent, enriched and quality living in the community through its social, health care & supportive services.”

Carefirst oaffers a number of community support services including personal care, house cleaning, transportation, security checks and social activities.

Siu currently works with Carefirst’s elder abuse hotline, where he offers emotional support and advice to those who seek assistance and refers cases to his supervisor or the police.

Although the job may sound emotionally draining, Siu said he doesn’t deal with many cases of elderly abuse.

“The hotline is not very well known although it’s publicized,” he said. “(Chinese) tradition and beliefs prevent people from speaking out and seeking help.”

Siu’s volunteer work background includes an AIDS workshop with Trinity Square Video, where he helped produce a 17-minute movie called Swim with Me.

The movie promoted the use of condoms to prevent the spreading of AIDS, targeting Chinese youth between 15 and 25. The successful project was advertised in many local Chinese-language newspapers.

Bonnie Ho, the project co-coordinator for elder abuse prevention at Carefirst, said she is surprised Siu is able to manage his full-time studies and volunteer work.

“He comes all the way from Ryerson for eight hours each week and is so happy with his work,” she said. “Jeffery is truly dedicated and passionate about this program.”

Siu said volunteering has helped him make some useful connections.

“I was able to get a position at Mount Sinai because the person who hired me knew me from my work on the short film,” he said. “You can establish some very valuable relations to help you in the future.”

Siu said he plans to pursue a masters degree and get a social work position in a community development center or a hospital.

“Youths today … want society to be fair and equal, but for that to happen, they need to help the disadvantaged in the present to help more people in the future,” said Siu.

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