The Nanaimo Telephone Visiting Society

By Anna Bunce

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Nothing brightens a mediocre day like an upbeat phone call from a friend. Everyone has had those moments when a simple “how are you?” and some kind words turn a lacklustre day into a special one. For the Nanaimo Telephone Visiting Society (NTVS), this simple principle has provided the basis for a unique form of community support.

With its mandate to alleviate loneliness, the Society organizes volunteers to call NTVS Seniors on a weekly basis. Volunteers and clients talk about anything and everything - from the weather to the emotional highs and lows of life. Regular contact not only reduces loneliness, but also links clients to various other services and events offered by the Society.

The inspiration for the Nanaimo Telephone Visiting Society, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, came from a newspaper article written following an elderly Winnipeg woman's death. Found beside her body was her diary in which, for 39 days straight, she wrote, "No one called or visited me today." Such loneliness sparked Sister Roseline Dunn, a Roman Catholic nun, into action. She founded a simple volunteer “phone-a-friend” group in hopes that no one would have to suffer the same debilitating loneliness as the Winnipeg woman. When Sister Roseline moved from Winnipeg to Nanaimo, she brought along her idea. Once in Nanaimo, the organization blossomed into what is now the Nanaimo Telephone Visiting Society.

Thirty years later, Sister Roseline's dream still makes a difference. As one NTVS client says, “I look forward to the phone calls. They keep me going.” Other clients have mentioned that the calls make them feel needed and important. “The calls really perk me up," one woman says.

And, NTVS volunteers benefit too. Many believe that being a part of the Society has given new purpose to their lives and they get just as much joy from volunteering as the clients they call.

While the Society’s name might suggest that telephone calls are its only purpose, in reality, phone calls are just one aspect of the organization. NTVS Program Co-ordinator Christine McCubbin says one of the best ways to alleviate loneliness is to get people out and about. To achieve this, NTVS organizes outings and events that allow their clients and volunteers to interact and bond over various activities. From monthly shopping trips to annual picnics and dinners, the Society makes a point to explore a variety of activities with its clients. With its popularity, “The Parksville Beach Sandcastle Festival is becoming a tradition!” says Christine.

Although most clients are called on a regular basis, some are only contacted during specific times of the month, or when their family members are away on holidays. Temporary visiting gives family members peace of mind, and helps fill in empty days for NTVS clients while their family is out of town.

Like most non-profit, volunteer-driven organizations, the Society is always looking for more volunteers. With only two full-time staff and occasional temporary interns, NTVS’s board members and volunteers have a huge influence on the Society.

Anyone interested in volunteering, joining the Board or becoming a client is encouraged to call 250-756-9455 or email NTVS at  For additional information, check out



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