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Volunteering as a way of creating stories in your life

Mary Wiggin understands the importance of stories – how they help us learn and connect. Since retiring she has done many things to keep herself active, among which is being a professional storyteller. We’re blessed to have had her tell her stories at our adult day programs for people living with dementia, spinning tales to unlock our clients’ memories and imaginations.

However, every Friday when she comes and volunteers, she does it to lend a hand to the staff at Carling Adult Day Program, or so she did before the pandemic stopped her from being able to three years ago. Since, then she hasn’t come in, but on January 6th, is excited to return for the first time since March 2020.

Often when people think of volunteers, they think of people giving of themselves, generally in the form of their time. But Mary sees it as an exchange. What she gets is laughter and a glimpse into the fascinating lives of people who have attended our adult day programs. “I’ve spoken with someone who mapped parts of the Arctic, doctors, farmers…One man was professor of fungi and mushrooms and when you’d ask him about it his face would light up and you’d get a lecture…It’s amazing what they remember.”

One thing that the pandemic took from many of us were stories. As we sat in our homes, often doing small tasks, watching TV, perhaps learning a skill, we lost that human interaction, that joy and unpredictability that comes from being around people. This is one of things that Mary is mostly looking forward to when she returns next month. “You get to connect with people. Laugh with them. Help them and hear their stories.” Often as we progress through work, we can get mired in the work of work. “Writing reports about reports,” as Mary quips. “These day programs bring joy into people’s lives,” says Mary. “The staff are incredible…they treat people with such respect.”

When she started at Carling Day Program in May of 2015, she didn’t know what to expect. She’d been looking for places to volunteer and stumbled upon Carling by accident as she lives in the area. From the beginning, Mary says that the staff at Carling made her feel welcomed and offered her support and guidance in how to best support and interact with the clients.

For some, supporting people living with dementia can be challenging as the disease presents itself differently for each person. And for some, especially people who are aging, it can be a little scary as dementia is something many people fear might one day happen to them. However, Mary found a joy in being with the clients. “The staff are so supportive…And people are people. You see who they were even if they might not be completely the same person.”

We are grateful to Mary and all our volunteers. As Carefor’s programs return to being in person, we are looking for people who are able to volunteer at our adult day programs as well as many other programs and services across the organization. Your support will have a huge impact on the lives of the people we serve.

If you’re interested or would like to know more, people visit carefor.ca/volunteer.