A volunteer organization is looking for people who have about a half an hour every week to help brighten a senior’s day.
This coming week (April 18 to 24) is National Volunteer Week and the Chilliwack Senior Peer Counsellors (CSPC), which is in need of more volunteers, is hoping people will sign up to speak with local senior over the phone every week. Currently, they have about 68 volunteer counsellors matched with more than 120 senior clients. Ideally, there would be one volunteer for every client.
Kay Campbell is the only staff member with CSPC, but she’s also a volunteer and chats with more than 25 seniors every week on the phone.
“That’s not just a five-minute phone call – some of them are a half an hour, some are 20 minutes, some of them are an hour,” Campbell said.
“The need is great. We’re getting phone calls that we can’t fill,” added volunteer and board member Linda Brawn, who speaks with five seniors each week.
Many of the seniors that Campbell, Brawn and the other volunteers speak with really need the connection. The vast majority don’t have computers or the internet, some have dementia, some are legally blind.
Most of all, they’re lonely.
Some of the seniors don’t have children, and others have adult children who don’t live nearby.
“Some of them, they have children but they’re not involved, they don’t talk to them,” Campbell said.
The seniors “don’t understand” why their children or grandchildren don’t phone, she said, adding that people need to know that there are a lot of seniors in Chilliwack who just need some kind of contact because they’re completely alone.
“On my phone calls, a lot of them say ‘I haven’t heard from anybody except you since last week,’” Campbell said. “We’re kind of a lifeline to them.”
They’re not just there to listen in a non-judgmental manner, but to help the seniors with services they may need.
The volunteers have helped seniors apply for the B.C. Recovery Benefit, booked COVID vaccination appointments, gotten them out of bug-infested homes and into new places, and removed them from abusive situations.
The conversations can, and often do, start on a low note.
“Sometimes they’re down and out, sad. But usually by the time we’re done, our goal is to get them laughing and on a positive note,” Brawn said.
And the seniors express their gratitude all the time. Campbell has been told by at least six people in one week that she is their guardian angel.
In a letter from one 70-year-old client with no family or close friends, she mentions Campbell has “enriched” her life and she looks forward to their phone chats every Friday.
“I feel like I matter,” the client wrote.
If you would like to sign up to be a volunteer with the Chilliwack Senior Peer Counsellors, phone 604-793-7204 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. People of any age can volunteer. There is some mentoring and/or training required.
Additionally, CSPC lost $22,500 in funding from the BC Gaming Grant this year and they are in the process of applying for a reconsideration. They have also applied for other funding, but if all of the funding falls through then they may need to move to a new office space due to lack of funding. They are now looking for funding and possibly a small office space with low/free rent. To donate money or if you have a space for them, phone 604-793-7204 or email email@example.com.
For more info, go to chilliwackseniorpeercounsellors.org.