QCSV Program Coordinators
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Helen Kosc, current Program Coordinator for Collin’s Bay, has been volunteering with QCSV since 2016. Aware that Kingston is home to 5 correctional facilities of differing size and security levels with unignorable rates of substance abuse, mental illness, and homelessness among the previously incarcerated, her goal in getting involved with QCSV was to make a change for the better in any capacity she could.
As Public Relations Director last year, Helen single-handedly created and managed the current website, with the aim to spread awareness of QCSV’s mission to the student community. In less than a year after its creation, the club has had over 250 students subscribe and express their interest in volunteering.
“It’s such a nice feeling to be approached by students and community members who report first hearing about the club through the website.”
Helen believes the volunteers are an integral part of many of the offenders’ lives, specifically through the programs that QCSV offers. She has had the privilege of seeing, firsthand, the incredible effects these programs have had on increasing the health and wellbeing of such a vulnerable population.
“Canada is a nation where 95% of inmates are released at some point in their lifetime, so why not equip our inmates with the skills they need upon release to ameliorate the growing rates of recidivism?”
Beginning her fourth year of volunteering at local institutions, Helen says “I can proudly say I have come in contact with more than 100 offenders and impacted their lives in some capacity for the better through volunteering.” Helen states the personal stories are proof enough of the importance of her service.
“We simply cannot expect offenders to make a successful return to the community on their own.”
When faced with daunting unemployment, often lacking basic skills like reading or writing, coupled with the psychological vulnerabilities intensified through their sentence, Helen asserts it is easy for offenders to turn back to crime, drugs and deviant behavior.
“If my mere presence as a volunteer can show them I care and am willing to devote my time to help them on their journey, ultimately allowing them to see their worth and potential is by far my proudest accomplishment.”
After completing a graduate degree in Criminology and pursuing either a Masters or a direct-entry PhD with a focus on crime control practices, Helen wants to apply the psychological concept of decision-making to the real-world example of ex-offenders to attempt to understand what it is that motivates them to re-offend and how we can minimize its appeal.
Madelyn Costanzo joined QCSV because she wanted to engage with the rest of the Kingston community, a large portion of whom are offenders, using her position of privilege as a post-secondary student to engage and assist with the rehabilitation of offenders in various correctional facilities. Happy to be back for her second year, Madelyn is currently the Program Coordinator for Joyceville institution.
Madelyn expresses her experience with QCSV has impacted her life in a positive, eye-opening way.
“I previously maintained personal convictions of offenders as scary individuals, and through this opportunity, I know this is not the case. QCSV has taught me to keep an open mind, not judge others, and treat everyone with kindness because you do not know the specific circumstances that has led a person to be incarcerated.”
Through her work, Madelyn aims to raise awareness regarding the realities of being a recently incarcerated individual in the Kingston area and the practical skills and resources that still need to be offered.
“The recently released offenders are still a highly stigmatized portion of the population in the Kingston area.”
Madelyn is currently working to develop an engaging program for employment workshops to deliver to offenders.
Markella Filtsos was attracted to QCSV due to its unique nature and is currently the Program Coordinator at Henry Trail CCC. Markella notes she enjoys volunteering with the marginalized population within the Kingston region because “in the end, they are people too.”
QCSV has been able to provide Markella with the opportunity to personalize her perceptions of offenders and federal corrections.
“I believe it is too easy to hold our own prejudices about this particular population without ever setting foot inside an institution. However, once you have been granted clearance and are able to volunteer at your first event, all your opinions change.”
Markella states the change in your perceptions start to metabolize when your nerves have settled, and you are able to have a genuine conversation with an inmate.
“Here you are able to see the pain and suffering firsthand through impartial eyes. You can’t help but empathize for them, which may seem rather ironic.”
Markella asserts she is in no way trying to minimize any of the horrible crimes that have been committed but is rather suggesting the offenders QCSV works with are people who have undoubtably made mistakes.
“QCSV has taught me that one stupid mistake can change your life. However, that mistake does not have to control your life forever.”
This year, Markella aims to create and implement a financial literacy program that focuses on relevant topics such as saving, budgeting, income taxes, and credit scores. The inspiration for this project arose when she acknowledged the education gaps that exist surrounding basic finances. QCSV’s goal is to equip offenders with the necessary life skills to be successful upon their return into society, therefore Markella believes this type of program is essential for reintegration.