Canada’s National Volunteer Week is April 24-30. The theme for this year, Volunteering is Empathy in Action, affirms the strong connection between volunteerism and empathy. This connection is at the core of healthier individuals and stronger communities across our province.
We celebrate the contributions of the numerous volunteers who have returned to PHSA programs, following any public health recommendations. We are grateful for their actions, their understanding, and their genuine concern for the health and well-being of British Columbians.
We also acknowledge that not all programs have been able to welcome back volunteers. Yet, we anticipate the tremendous value they will bring in the future as opportunities are reinstated.
To volunteers, past, present and future, we raise our hands to the work you do across PHSA and thank you for the ways you bring heart and connection to our local communities.
Read about volunteers across PHSA programs who put empathy in action, enhancing the health care experience for the patients, families and clients we serve.
Judy So has always enjoyed working with children. After leaving her role as a Sunday school teacher when she moved to UBC to begin university, she quickly realized she missed interacting with kids. Judy signed up to volunteer at BC Children’s Hospital in the first month of her undergrad.
“I dreamed of being a doctor since I was a kid myself. I used to write in my journal in elementary school that I wanted to be a ‘pedestrian’ but I meant to say pediatrician. When I learned about the opportunity at BC Children’s Hospital to interact with patients, families and clinicians, I could not pass it up!”
Judy began her volunteer journey in the Auxiliary Thrift Shop
, but has since experienced many roles – from an Emergency Department patient and family ambassador liaison to a Child Life
volunteer in the Oncology unit to her current role as recreation therapy volunteer in the Sunny Hill Health Centre.
Judy jokes that sometimes she may be having more fun than the kids. “Anytime someone asks me ‘Will you be back next week?’ it's the highlight of my day.”
For Judy, National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to feel grateful to be in the company of children, their families and the wonderful staff at BC Children’s Hospital.
A Kamloops resident, Jenni has worked as a social worker with Fraser Health and Interior Health for the greater part of her career. Last year, she stepped into the role of pandemic health coordinator working to help COVID-19 patients navigate the isolation process and connect them with the care they need.
As a busy mom of three and a working professional, Jenni still finds the time to contribute to her community. Since 2015, Jenni has been involved with HEMBC’s Disaster Psychosocial Services Program
(DPS) volunteer network within PHSA—aiding B.C. communities that have been impacted by a disaster. She has been on-site at a number of events including the 2021 wildfires and the “Walking our Spirits Home” ceremony in honour of the residential school children who lost their lives.
“I’ve always felt it’s really important to volunteer and contribute to my community,” says Jenni. “After signing up for DPS and going on a few deployments, I felt I had something to give in terms of supporting and listening. It’s so rewarding. Although I don’t have a magic wand to fix people’s lives, I can give them the space to talk about what’s going on and ask them what they need.”
For Jenni, National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to celebrate those who volunteer and showcase the importance of helping others.
With flood and wildfire season quickly approaching, DPS continues to expand its volunteer network. If you are interested in volunteering with DPS, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Ryan Good, DPS network coordinator at 604-319-0196.
After her transplant in September 2011, Elizabeth Edward began volunteering with PHSA and BC Transplant as an opportunity to thank the medical community. Through her participation in Operation Popcorn, Transplant Heroes Week and numerous other initiatives, Elizabeth has been able to share her road to transplant with colleagues, friends, and families.
“One of the most impactful experiences as a volunteer still happens over and over. It is the surprise people express when they find out me, and any colleagues I'm with, are transplant recipients. So many people expect you to still be ‘sickly’ after transplant, and it is a revelation to patients that most recipients lead very healthy and productive lives.”
For Elizabeth, National Volunteer Week is a reminder to raise both awareness and understanding of organ donation and transplantation.
“I never quite find the right words to describe what volunteering with PHSA and BC Transplant means to me. It is so rewarding to work with all the staff, other recipients, living donors and their families—I doubt I would have met many donors otherwise. I love the camaraderie and I love being able to talk to people about the whole process of organ donation and transplantation. It really is quite incredible.”
Volunteering connects people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences in ideas and actions. It creates space for people to come together over a common purpose and goal. It reminds us that we need each other and builds capacity to work collectively to serve one another.
Whether you are playing with young patients and their siblings, providing psychological first aid during a crisis, delivering care packages to health care workers or encouraging patients with stories from lived experience—you are an invaluable part of the services we provide at PHSA and we are grateful for all that you do. Thank you.