It's National Volunteer Week and we're celebrating by highlighting just a few of the incredible volunteers who generously share their time, spirit and empathy with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) making the health care experience better for all.
By the time she began volunteering with VCH, Taylor Bootsma knew she wanted to be a doctor. She joined VCH as a volunteer in 2019, working
with programs at Purdy Pavilion that provided social recreation and one-on-one visits to residents. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, she tapped into her artistic skill to connect with residents who were isolated, sharing greetings and videos of her painting, through VCH's virtual greeting initiative.
Following her time at the long-term care site, Taylor volunteered with the Ready Response team, assisting with COVID screening and vaccination clinics. “I got to see how large initiatives are planned. It was nice to have a positive impact during such a difficult time for all of us," she says.
More recently, Taylor became involved with harm reduction, which has had the most impact on her life. About four months ago, she started to help out at harm reduction kiosks at the Pender Community Health Centre, distributing critical supplies, like clean needles and naloxone kits, as well as providing training on how to safely use the materials. “I get to work with so many people who are marginalized and I hear about their interactions with the health care system," she explains.
Volunteering has allowed Taylor to see firsthand the values that are important when working as a medical professional. She encourages anyone considering volunteering with VCH to look into the many opportunities that exist. She plans to apply for medical school this summer.
At the start of the pandemic, Helen Hsiao had just returned to her native Taiwan when she was offered a new way to connect with the residents she had been volunteering with at UBC Hospital's (UBCH) long-term care program: sharing her own customized travel videos or vlogs.
Through VCH's virtual greeting initiative, where heartwarming digital messages were sent to long-term care residents after COVID-19 temporarily paused in-person visits, Helen was able to reconnect with the residents she had previously been visiting weekly and missed dearly.
“I decided to make them virtual tours of various Taiwanese historical sites and talk about the food," she explains. “I thought it might be nice for them as they couldn't really go anywhere in person, and through my videos they could experience a different culture."
Helen got positive feedback from staff that the residents really enjoyed her vlogs, asking to share her videos with more residents. “I'm so glad I was able to give the residents some happiness and a moment of relief from the loneliness they may have been feeling," she says.
Now back in Vancouver, Helen just celebrated five years as a VCH volunteer. She's currently volunteering at UBCH's Urgent Care Centre.
Barb has been a VCH volunteer for more than 14 years and has contributed 8,892 hours of volunteer service!
An avid knitter, Barb spends her free time knitting items for premature babies, including tiny mitts and hats, that are sold in the Lions Gate Hospital Gift Shop. Over the years, she has held many roles, including volunteering in the Gift Shop, as a Screener/Greeter and as a Wayfinder, in Discharge & Delivery and in Baby Cuddling as well as with COVID-19 Rapid Test Kit Preparations.
“Barb brings a positive attitude, a genuine smile and a dedication to her community," says Joanne McFadden, Coordinator, Volunteer Resources on the North Shore. “Barb is always willing to help where needed. When the pandemic hit, she was one of the first volunteers to offer help as a Screener and amassed more than 2,654 hours in various departments from March 2020 to March 2022."
Barb enjoys travelling and has recently made her way to Egypt, which was a bucket list item for her.
Interested in volunteering at VCH, visit the volunteer page to learn more.