Meet Heather, our Island Crisis Care Society “Volunteer of the Month.” Heather grew up in the Edson and Hinton areas of Alberta. The daughter of two teachers who were “amateur naturalists,” she spent much of her childhood outdoors. Her parents’ Christian faith was also modeled in their home impacting Heather’s future education, varied work and volunteer endeavors. After receiving her B.Ed. Heather “taught for 5 years before buying a piece of land from a relative in the 80’s and opening a center that offered outdoor and peace and conflict education.” Various other jobs have included working for the University of Alberta, as a writer and book publisher, as an arborist, and at Nanaimo’s Bethlehem Centre. She also went back to school for a master’s degree in Theological Studies. Heather is now a spiritual director which “informs her listening practice with people who she meets.” This skill is one she’s “able to bring to the clients at Samaritan Place.”
During semi-retirement Heather settled in Nanaimo. She was “looking for something to do” and started volunteering at Nanaimo Community Hospice where she trained for “palliative care and grief and loss support… The Hospice had a program to deliver comfort kits on request to those grieving the loss of a loved one.” One day Heather made a delivery to a client at Samaritan Place. She was “barely in the door” when Heather met Ronell and learned of their need for volunteer support. They were in the midst of building the new facility. Once it was completed, Ronell contacted Heather through Sara, the ICCS Volunteer Coordinator and Heather soon began coming regularly to offer her support.
Heather is largely motivated by her “belief in social justice.” She explained that the initial “meeting with Ronell seemed serendipitous. If felt like an opening to a place I needed to be. I had been hungering to meet people from that demographic. I needed to immerse myself more, to better understand where people are coming from. It is fine to talk, read or write about homelessness but I needed to know people who were experiencing it, to help them find their voice in some small ways. Sometimes I wonder what I have to offer. I probably get more from the experience of talking to these people than I give. Volunteering with ICCS allows me to sit in compassion and pushes my growing edges… It’s beautiful to hear their stories, affirm their stories and affirm their humanity.” Heather added one final and powerful truth. “The work of ICCS is phenomenal in this community; whatever it takes as a volunteer to support it matters!”