Our sixth 2023 volunteer spotlight features JA Ottawa volunteer, Rob Meredith. Read on to learn more about Rob and why he chooses to volunteer.
“Rob Meredith, of RBC, is in his 10th year as a JA volunteer. He’s done every program we’ve had including piloting 4 new programs. He’s a JA Rockstar volunteer. On top of that he’s a donor to ONFE and JA.” – Albert Wong, Director of JA Ottawa.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born in Mississauga Ontario, moved to London Ontario for high school and made my way up to Ottawa for University (at the University of Ottawa). I am the proud dad to two young sons (9 and 6) who are very sport-oriented. I coach them in basketball 4 times a week and when I’m not coaching, I enjoy endurance sports (distance running, mountain climbing, etc.) and have taken up Muay Thai during the pandemic.
What made you decide to volunteer with the JA program?
I got to experience JA Company program as a student in grade 9 in London Ontario and when the opportunity arose to engage as a mentor (over 10 years ago) I jumped at the chance. I am a huge believer that when we empower and guide youth we are making an investment in our communities future. JA is such a brilliant program, providing guidance and experiences that resemble all those things we used to say “they should teach this in school!”. Well thanks to JA – I can share that now they do teach those things in school – and this is the program / vehicle that makes that happen.
Who was your favourite teacher and why?
My favorite teacher was Miss Gerard. She was my grade 6 teacher and she was my favorite because she held me accountable and to a higher standard. She taught me at the level she thought I was capable of – not based on my marks or age – I valued and respected that a lot.
What is your personal philosophy on life?
I endeavour to have lots of people at my funeral and my retirement party and I work backwards from that goal. It means that I need to be kind, fair, honest, and transparent. It means I can’t avoid becoming involved, helping or assisting. It means that I need to invest in people and not have an outcome or goal in mind other than assisting. Taking ‘the long view’ on life allows you to focus on what matters in the big picture – not the minute by minute or day by day stuff.
If you could go back to a particular grade level or childhood age, which would it be and why?
Probably first year University. It was an incredible experience, heading to a campus with tens of thousands of other students and teachers and knowing not a single person. It was an opportunity to have total autonomy and yet total responsibility. It was an incredible opportunity for personal growth and living outside of your comfort zone.
What is your favorite hidden gem in Ottawa?
Ottawa has so many hidden gems! From going for a run up Carlington Park to visit the bike trails, to running by the Ottawa River or visiting Camp Fortune to ride the mountain coaster. From a food perspective, everyone loves Suzie Q doughnuts, Del Piacere on Preston for authentic Italian pizza, Shawarma at the Middle East Food store, Falafel at the Lansdowne Market from the Falafel Guys, to having ice cream at the Carp Creamery or Merry Dairy. We are fortunate to have so many things to see and do (and eat!) in Ottawa – it’s a fantastic city to live in.
Tell us about a lesson you learned this year. What did it teach you about yourself?
Perhaps something that has been developed throughout the pandemic (versus simply this year) but it is that being ‘busy’ is not a badge of honor, or something to be prideful about. Busy without purpose is simply a clogged calendar. Being purposeful with your time is something to aspire to. For me that means dedicating time to catch up with friends and those close to me, spending time just throwing a ball with my kids, or dedicating time to reading each day. I was told a few years ago to ‘plan my perfect day’. Once I accomplished that vision the real challenge began – which was to seek to operationalize life to ensure that perfect day occurred ….everyday. Like many, everyday is far from perfect, things run long, surprises and challenges often rear their head, but I still endeavour to achieve it. Designing your life to ensure it is what you want it to be is something I have focused on this year. I’ve learned to be less busy and to have more purpose in what I do. I changed my relationship a bit with time, and as my kids have gotten older, they notice if dad is not present. So my lesson is to design, and to design with purpose of outcome in mind. Life is short, and to important to leave up to chance, design helps us gain control of those minutes, hours and days to ensure our days are as perfect as we can make them.
If you are interested in volunteering with JA Ottawa, please visit our program page.