“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”
— Maya Angelou
With seven organizations to choose from, the Disability Foundation and our affiliated Societies offer many opportunities for people to volunteer throughout the year. We are so grateful for the contributions made by each and every volunteer: building assistive devices, helping out with sailing, kayaking, and hiking excursions, playing music, supporting the Abilities Expo, and so much more.
In this month’s vHub newsletter, we’d like to introduce you to Jee Lam. Jee knows from experience how fun and rewarding volunteering with these organizations can be. During the busy summer months, working many jobs, Jee Lam decided to volunteer. “I loved it so much more than I thought I would,” she says. Volunteering with the BCMOS hiking and kayaking programs as well as DIGA’s gardening programs helped Jee to slow down and enjoy nature while also serving as an amazing source of community connection for her.
Jee’s first volunteering experience with us was helping out at last year’s Abilities Expo but she first learned about the BCMOS hiking program through her Kinesiology program at the University of British Colombia where she is on her way to becoming a physiotherapist. Despite her busy schedule, volunteering is an important part of Jee’s work-life balance. In under a year, Jee dedicated 55 hours to hiking, kayaking, and gardening. In a word, volunteering is about connection, and Jee’s dedication to volunteering is inspiring.
When asked what she would say to anyone considering volunteering for the summer programs, she emphatically said, “Do it!” As a perfectionist, she always wants to do her best, but volunteering doesn’t need to be perfect. She recommends leading with enthusiasm and bringing a willingness to learn and explore. There is so much enjoyment in going for a walk or a paddle: “You can sign up for whatever shift you want. It’s very flexible even if you work a full-time job. You choose when you want to go.” Jee also describes how volunteering can recharge a person’s batteries.
One of her favourite memories of the hiking program was a day at Spanish Banks when the tide was super low. The water was all the way out, so the sandy beach was perfect for walking and rolling. She fondly remembers the many conversations she shared with her walking companion that day. It was the perfect break from her busy life to listen to the stories of this person who had traveled around the world and taken the TrailRider for so many amazing journeys. They spent the full afternoon chatting and enjoying the ocean air together. On another hike, she remembers talking with a mom about her daughter’s experiences, the obstacles she faced, and the loving relationship she had with her daughter. As she said, “it’s nice to expand my world…and to have a great honor and a greater understanding of what people’s experiences are.”
Kayaking was also a relaxing volunteer experience for Jee. It’s a different kind of connection with people when you are on the water together. Sometimes it is not the easiest to have a conversation over the sounds of the wind and the water but nevertheless, there is a special connection. She noticed when people come back to land their faces have changed and the expression of enjoyment is unmistakable.
Like so many new volunteers, Jee was nervous about making a good impression when she started, especially when she volunteered at DIGA’s doing community gardens: “It was great. I was nervous because I’m not a gardener. I’d like to be a gardener.” Her mom is a very knowledgeable gardener, and Jee grew up with an appreciation for the knowledge and skills needed in the garden. She talked about her community gardening experience with the biggest smile. Jee got the chance to learn from other gardeners and, in time, made a meaningful friendship with one of her fellow gardeners, learning about his experiences with planting a bay leaf tree in the courtyard of his home 20 or 30 years ago. This tree is massive now and its leaves are used for cooking by all the neighbours: “He knows all the names and types of plants. He’s such an expert. He knows all about how different plants interact and benefit each other. For example, tomatoes and basil grow really well together.” She thought her client should write a book on gardening with all of his knowledge and expertise.
Thank you Jee for sharing and getting us all excited about the coming summer full of sunshine, good conversation, and getting connected with nature.
If you are interested in experiencing and sharing the joy of the outdoors with others like Jee, please consider joining our community of volunteers for our summer programs! Sign up by emailing email@example.com.