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Celebrating the adaptability of volunteers moving from in-person to online workshops

22/04/2021

Starting in early June 2020, just a few months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 pandemic, five volunteers from the Community Engagement Advisory Network (CEAN) took initiative and adapted a long-standing workshop from an in-person format to a virtual one. This is not an easy feat, especially when you consider the topic of the workshop: Advance Care Planning.

The award-winning Advance Care Planning workshop originated during a public forum in 2010 and has been going strong ever since. Canada has an annual day that recognizes the importance of doing this work – Advance Care Planning Day – which takes place on April 16 and encourages people to make “your health-care wishes known prior to being in a situation where you may no longer be able to speak for yourself."


CEAN members (clockwise from top left): Karen Sanderson, Caron Hawrychuk, Katherine Tam and Pat Porterfield. Missing from photo: Marisa Shu Chin Ku

People need to be equipped for the unexpected – perhaps now more than ever, given the challenges we face during the COVID-19 pandemic. Realizing this, the volunteers showed incredible teamwork and partnered with the B.C. Centre for Palliative Care to make the workshop available online, as well as in different languages.

The five CEAN volunteers have many years of experience between them working in palliative care, end of life care committees and hospice programs – they truly empathize with what a sensitive and challenging topic Advance Care Planning can be. They believed in-person interaction was the best way to create a supportive environment for the participants to gain knowledge on the topic. Initially, they believed online facilitation was not for them.

What the volunteers discovered is that, despite their reservations, they were able to adapt and continue to evolve the workshop in a way that resonates with participants. To illustrate this, they tackle the challenge of creating a warm, welcoming environment for participant and fostering connection by sharing more background about themselves as well as more of their own personal stories.

Now, almost a year later, the volunteers are seeing many benefits to hosting the Advance Care Planning workshops online. They have noticed that people are attending from across Vancouver Coastal Health, more adult children are joining the workshops with their parents and, as the workshop is shorter, they are able to focus content on key ideas. As one participant noted, “it was just long enough and thorough enough to be genuinely helpful but not too long nor too overwhelming or with too much new information to be discouraging. It was a Goldilocks presentation – just right!"

The workshops are quite popular and often have waitlists. To register for an upcoming Advance Care Planning workshop or to find other opportunities to get engaged through Vancouver Coastal Health, visit engage.vhc.ca. To become a CEAN volunteer, register here.


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