Keith Man

“Energy goes where attention flows, and my attention is here and now.”

The Disabled Independent Gardeners Association (DIGA) is deeply grateful to have an understanding volunteer like Keith Man. Hailing from Hong Kong, Keith is pursuing a Bachelor of Sciences at the University of British Columbia, majoring in Cellular Anatomy and Physiology. Through volunteering, he hopes to understand the lives “and stories of those around him.  

Keith first came across the Disabled Independent Gardeners Association on UBC’s Reddit forum last summer when searching for volunteer opportunities. Motivated by his time helping his grandmother with gardening back in Hong Kong, his new volunteer role offered him the opportunity to learn. “My relationship with my grandparents hasn’t always been the best since [there is] a very clear generational gap…I’ve never really tried to empathize with them a lot during my childhood,” he explained, “I’ve gotten a sense of how to better interact with them and also get to understand their needs from a more personal level.” Through his volunteering, he’s been able to better connect with his grandmother, who gardens to maintain her mental health. Keith reveals that “Knowing how to just be there for her and be helpful for her and just check in on her through some common hobby, like gardening has been really helpful.” His volunteering has also allowed him to better understand others who are struggling similarly.  

Keith Man Fishing

As a volunteer, Keith works with DIGA client Mary Steeves, who has been a mentor in helping him see life from a different perspective: “I got to learn a lot from her…like just some general life tips coming from like an elderly [person], which I think I cherished a lot, especially since I’ve always kind of struggled with how to manage stress during exam seasons….” Having no experience gardening, Keith’s time working with Mary has become a learning opportunity: “My main point of attention…when I was volunteering for DIGA was just to learn as much as possible about the plants and how to identify them.” Keith says that “One major role for me was just to identify the weeds and kind of we do some weeding.” Over time, he became more familiar with the process, noting that “I got more comfortable with identifying the plants and also knowing …when it’s a good time to harvest them, so I could also provide some inputs back to Mary.” 

For Keith, volunteering is a way to personally develop himself as much as it is to help those around him. In Keith’s case, volunteering helped grow his understanding of the community around him. He says that “Volunteering was one of the more direct ways to get to know what the community is and what it needs, so I could better kind of plan my future to see what I could contribute.” Looking to pursue a healthcare career, Keith explains that his volunteering is helping him understand the human aspect of his possible career: “It really helps me learn how to establish a genuine human connection with another person.” 

Keith, thank you so much for your willingness and patience to understand those you work with and empathize with them more deeply. Your journey as a student and volunteer serves as an example of what it means to give back not just to the community but also the people who make it up.