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Volunteer Profiles: Merle Linde and Odelon Manansala

Volunteer Profiles: Merle Linde and Odelon Manansala

Merle joined Jewish Seniors Alliance Peer Support Services in 2015 as a natural progression from participating for many years in community services in both South Africa and Canada.

Merle was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and emigrated to Canada with her husband Ivan and three sons in 1992, settling in Vancouver in 1994. Merle, together with Ivan, worked for many years in both South Africa and subsequently in Canada in the Promotional Products Industry, and both enjoyed interacting with a variety of different people on many levels of business.

When they retired a few years ago she found more time to devote to helping other people. Merle had an excellent role model in her father who was social and philanthropic and who so naturally enforced the humanitarian ideals of “Tikkun Olam” and “Chesed” – to repair the world with acts of kindness and to ensure a safeguard for those who may be at a disadvantage.

Her participation on the Board of Directors of Chabad of Richmond gave her an insight into the plight of seniors, their need to attend the regular lunches offered, the classes and the entertainment – all so essential during the “Senior Years”.

So, when the opportunity to participate in the Senior Peer Counselling (SPC) Training Program at JSA became available, Merle chose to participate to help fill some of the gaps of service in Greater Vancouver in both the Jewish community and the senior service community.

Merle found the SPC training with Grace Hann (SPC Trainer) intense, exciting and professional and she enjoyed the camaraderie amongst the diverse group of participants. Upon completion of her 55 hours of training she was paired with four clients, who are each now visited once a week.

Merle would like to see many more mature adults (55+) enrol in this training and become Senior Peer Councellors, Friendly Home Visitors or Friendly Phone Callers.

Regularly providing a confidential empathetic ear, no judgement, and no advice can go a long way towards our clients gradually finding their own coping skills.

An excellent Program. Thank you JSA!!

I want to be supportive of others

Since I was young, there has always been the deep desire to help and support others as a humanitarian. But during my early adult life I had to set this aside temporarily to tend after my young family. Later on in my life as I began to approach retirement, the deep longing to immerse myself in the greater community once again hit me with intensity.

One day I spotted an ad for a free Senior Peer Support Counselling course given by Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver. A sense of excitement stirred in me. I knew that this was the answer to the “How” of my search for community involvement.

I then took the 55 hours training course in 2015 with Grace Hann, the Volunteer Trainer and Supervisor at JSA Peer Support Services.

I learned from the training the need and skill to understand first myself so I can then understand others, being totally present, active listening, responding with empathy without judgement, no advice and no rescue. For me, these are the key ingredients for delivering effective peer support.

Visiting a client for the first time was not easy. There was a mixture of excitement and nervousness at the uncertain outcome of my encounter with a client. Fortunately, I had the guidance of our Trainer/ Supervisor and Coordinator, Grace Hann and Charles Leibovitch.

Working from the framework of empowering seniors to find effective solutions to their own challenges, my confidence grew after a series of client visits. Presently, I am regularly visiting three clients and as well teamed up with a retired registered nurse senior peer counselor visiting a senior facility where we see several more clients.

One time a client asked me, ”Why are you doing this”? Without hesitation, I said it is something I want to do. It feels right and seems the most natural thing for me.

Thank you Jewish Seniors Alliance for opening the door for me.