Empowering People

By Bev Yaworski

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Vancouver resident Joyce Ma is passionate when talking about her many volunteer activities with The Arthritis Society, BC & Yukon Division in Vancouver. Diagnosed with three different kinds of arthritis – rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis and osteoarthritis – Joyce decided to volunteer at the Bluebird Shop during her treatment, in 1994, at the Arthritis Centre.

She volunteered once a week as a cashier, until 2008, when the manager and buyer retired, and Joyce took over their responsibilities. Her shop duties are extensive and include scheduling volunteers, shopping for snacks and drinks, getting products to the shelves, shopping for gift items and arthritis aides, pricing and displaying items, restocking shelves, training new volunteers and more.
“Volunteering is second nature to me,” says Joyce. “Why do I volunteer? Because I'm able to, and I'm happy to help. I like to help charitable organizations with a good cause and I like to help those who need help. I usually donate my time and effort and, sometimes, ideas. I like to be useful and, at the end of the day, I've accomplished something and have contributed for the good of society.”

Joyce started volunteering at age 10 and has volunteered at countless events at her church, in school, and the community. She has been involved in organizing walkathons, galas and soirées; activities for the food bank; and at her kid’s school. She is also involved as a volunteer patient with the Arthritis Patient Advisory Board (APAB) with Arthritis Research Canada and collaborates with researchers on their projects. Writing for their newsletter is another one of her many contributions.

The Victoria office of the BC & Yukon Division also has a team of enthusiastic volunteers. Kari Dolberg has been volunteering since 2011, and got involved after attending education programs hosted by The Arthritis Society.

“I was inspired by their programs,” says Kari. “It is so important that people living with chronic pain have access to this information, so I thought I would get involved myself. It was information important to me in my life, so I believed it would make a difference in other peoples’ lives, as well.”

Her current duties involve the A-Z of program facilitation: setting up the room; operating the IT equipment; leading/teaching the various programs; answering the many questions from participants; and, perhaps more importantly, giving people information and skills to help them access the information they need to live their lives more comfortably.
Over the years, she has also handled registration at programs and done some administrative duties. Kari always tries to step up to the plate when the organization requires help.

“I believe there is a lot people can do to improve the quality of their life… instead of feeling like victims of a chronic disease,” says Kari. “Education empowers people to live the best life they can on their own terms. I deal with arthritis and I am willing to speak freely about my personal journey. I hope this makes folks feel more at ease speaking about their own journey.”

“It is when the program participants open up and learn from one another that the process is so rewarding for me,” says Kari. “I am always heartened to see on the program evaluation forms that many participants feel they have new ideas or a new approach they are going to try. I try to be as adaptable and dependable as I can because I know it is not easy living with chronic pain. If I can help make someone else’s life a little easier, it is very rewarding for me, too.”

Positive, inspirational volunteers like Kari and Joyce encourage anyone living with the chronic conditions of arthritis to attend one of The Society’s workshops. In addition to the information taught in the various programs, the experience sharing on the part of the program participants is so important in dealing with day-to-day challenges.
According to The Arthritis Society, about 4.6 million Canadians are living with arthritis. There are over 100 different types of arthritis and the disease affects people of every age, from every walk of life. The organization holds many activities, like the recent 2015 6th Annual Walk to Fight Arthritis to raise funds and increase awareness to support their important ongoing charitable work.

The valuable efforts of this organization depend on the dedicated support of volunteers and donors. To get more information or to become involved with The Society, contact the BC & Yukon Division at www.arthritis.ca/BC or toll-free at 1-866-414.7766.




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