Vulnerability and Compassion – Why I Volunteer

I have stood in the middle of a remote country road with a flashlight to guide overnight runners in the Hood to Coast relay race.

I have been the Sin Bin NSO (penalty box non-skating official) for the local roller derby team.

I have wrapped presents for the local food bank and sold raffle tickets for the curling club.

I sift through donations at a local thrift store that using proceeds to help members in my community.

I am a volunteer and I love doing it.

When I first started volunteering, I thought it was a way for me to benefit others with my expertise or abilities. I thought I was helping them. That’s not true. I volunteer for a completely different reason. A selfish reason.

Last October, I started volunteers for the admin and clerical unit of Arrowhead Clubhouse. Arrowhead Clubhouse is a place where people living with mental illness on the Sunshine Coast can come to learn skills, get support and build relationships in a safe, stigma-free environment.

The Clubhouse is a community of 225 people working together towards a common goal. The Clubhouse is divided into four units that offer an opportunity for members to use their skills or learn different ones. The units are Kitchen, Clerical, Peer Support and Garden/Maintenance. The member are responsible for the running of the clubhouse, from shopping and making the daily lunch to recycling to creating yoga programs.

As a volunteer in the clerical unit, I was there to assist the members in getting their stories or promotions out to the public. I recruited for my social media history and knowledge of press releases.

I thought I was there for them.

It turns out that while I was brought in to help them with communication, they taught me how to communicate.

This stigma-free clubhouse is very much like a family. Every day, this family gathers for a few hours to pull together their resources and make a location for members to thrive. They embrace the differences in each member and set a place at the table. They are open and loving with one another.

And they hold NOTHING BACK. If they are having a rough day, they let you know. If they are on cloud nine due to getting a new job or finding a place to live, you know about it. They are open about what they are going through and they expect the same from you. That “fine” or “busy” response given to “how are you” questions will not go far here.

They share and they expect the same. It is a place of raw emotions and vulnerability. But that is what fosters the love and sense of family.

There are days I leave after my shift with a broken heart and other days my heart has grown eight sizes.

I thought I was there to help them, but they have taught me so much more about the person I want to be. A compassionate, open, honest and vulnerable person.

I volunteer to become a better person.

To learn more about Arrowhead Clubhouse, visit arrowclub.org

Follow Your Heart: One Woman’s Love for Chocolate Sparks New Business Endeavor

“It’s impossible,” said pride.
“It’s risky,” said experience.
“It’s pointless,” said reason.
“Give it a try,” whispered the heart.

Christabel's Chocolates - Sunshine Coast, BCIt’s trendy for people out of school, full of heart and energy, to jump into the entrepreneurial world.  It’s even common for some people who have been following one life track to switch gears and head in a completely different direction.  Some of these decisions are based upon job markets, economy, tapping into their inner passion or just following a dream.

While everyone may have a different reason for branching out into the unknown, it does take a bit of the same recipe to accomplish it.  You have to have heart, a strong belief in yourself and look beyond the fear to take that first step off the safety sidewalk and into the unknown.

This past weekend, I visited one of the local holiday craft fairs in Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia in search of unique gifts for family created by members of the community. The craft fair offered aromatherapy scents for the home, knitted hats and scarves and even detailed tea light holders.  But there was one booth that stood out to me — handmade artisanal chocolates.

“Have you been here before?” I asked the youthful looking woman behind the display table. There were stacks of cute little kraft cardboard boxes filled with various pieces of chocolate.Christabel's Chocolates

“No, this is my first time,” the woman, known as Christabel Watson said. “This is my first time selling chocolate at all.”

According to Watson, she had been making homemade chocolate for over 20 years. It started when she was a school teacher and would craft unique sweets for the children in her class and their parents.  After she left the teaching profession, she made chocolates for friends and families. It was crafted from her own ideas right in her home kitchen.  What started as caramels or chocolate covered pretzels evolved into Strawberry Balsamic or French Almond Nougat or Black Sallies (her personal creation).

Luckily for chocolate lovers and unfortunate for Watson, the chocolatier broke her ankle over the summer and found herself in the kitchen a bit more than in previous years. So, with the fall festival a short time away, Watson decided to give it a go.

Christabel's Chocolates“I figured I would try and sell them. See if anyone wanted them,” she told me as she wrapped up my purchases. In all honesty, I think we were her first sale of the day, but far from her last.

Here was someone who took something they loved and threw their hat into the ring to give it a try. She had made that decision to step off the sidewalk and into the traffic of business ownership.  That in itself is inspiring, but that’s not all.

It was the smile and her words that were dipped into fondness for what she does that touched me.  Here was someone doing what they loved to do, offering to share it with others.

She was kind to answer my questions and I wish her the best as her business grows (at this time, she doesn’t have a website or online presence).

And other than some tasty chocolates, I walked away with a reminder to listen to the heart and “give it a try.”