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Graduation Class of 2019

Graduation Class of 2019

Written by Pamella Ottem

Photography by Stan Shear

March 6th, who would have guessed it would be snowing that afternoon? However, it did not stop the volunteers and new senior peer support graduates from attending the wonderful fun-filled evening. Over 50 people showed up to celebrate the new graduates and the volunteers.

The evening began with Grace Hann and Charles Leibovitch welcoming all to the evening. JSA President Ken Levitt spoke about the power of one. One volunteer can change the life of one senior client. Serge Haber, JSA founder, spoke passionately about the mission to help lonely, isolated seniors with our services. Both congratulated the new senior peer support volunteers as they received their certificates. The Senior Peer Support Education Program takes 11 weeks of learning, eleven consecutive Sundays for five hours each Sunday.

Nancy Bell, one of the senior peer graduates spoke about how the program had worked for her. Lorraine Drossis another senior peer support graduate talked about the education programs impact on her own life. Tessie (Fatima) Rebello outlines each of the special traits she had learned to appreciate in the 16 new graduates who had taken this program with her over the past 11 weeks. Because of the length of the training program and the intensive role-play learning, the individuals in the group become very close to each other, learning one another’s strengths and challenges.

Ruby Boychuk, a Certified Senior Peer Support Volunteer, spoke about her volunteer work at two care facilities. Ruby, a former nurse, took blood pressures of the residents as an introduction to different individuals. The residents loved her time with them. When the new administration wanted to change their meeting room, Ruby said she would have to stop coming.

The residents revolted and insisted they have Ruby back, the administration agreed. The Senior Peer Support Volunteer Program is focused on helping individuals figure out how to get what they wish to have. What a clear example of helping seniors advocating for themselves.

Nancy Bennett is another special volunteer who was acknowledged. She provides daily phone calls to one of the shut-in seniors. Nancy also contributed a wonderful vegetarian dish to the celebration’s menu. Nancy gives of her time and skills tirelessly.

The celebration was honoured with four special speakers who offered congratulations to the new graduates and heart-felt thanks to the volunteers for their special work. Dr. Bev Pitman from United Way spoke about what United Way is doing to help seniors in British Columbia. Shelly Rivkin, from Jewish Federation, talked about how special the volunteer appreciation evenings were and how she appreciated being invited to them. The Jewish Federation is one of the financial supporters of JSA peer support services program. Dorothy LeClair from Burnaby Senior Outreach is one of the members of the Board of Directors of the Senior Peer Counsellors of British Columbia, the program taught to JSA’s senior peer volunteers. She has senior peer counsellors working in Burnaby and was impressed with how many volunteers JSA has. Kathryn Patterson from Vancouver Coastal spoke as well.

The evening proceeded with great food, lots of laughter, and great music by Dave and Julie Ivaz. It was fun to see people dancing to the music we could all sing the words to!

The JSA Board of Directors was out in force to congratulate the new graduates and to give thanks to the volunteers. Serge Haber calls the volunteers “Angels” which they truly are.




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