Lily came to South Vancouver Neighbourhood House with a tight frown. She had to find a shelter in a week before the move-out deadline. “When renters know I pay my bills on income assistance, they always have excuses to say no.” Lily has health issues due to hard work in her young age, and she has to raise her teenage daughter on her limited income assistance. “My daughter is 16 years old, but we still have to share a small bedroom to save money.” With multiple barriers – finance, health, employment, and language – Lily is experiencing a tough time.
Unfortunately, there are no shelter services at SVNH to help Lily with her urgent housing need. However, staff did not give up. We made calls and connected her with a Vietnamese-speaking worker at another agency. “Their office is very close to my home. I can walk there and save a bus ticket.” Knowing she uses regular compass card, staff double-checked information for an annual bus pass. When Lily learned she is eligible to pay only $45 for a whole year pass, she calculated quickly. “I can save about $100 for the rest of this year!” For the first time that morning, Lily had bright smile.
“As a caregiver of my mother, networking is so important for her and me. No one wants to be isolated, but as the older senior and caregiver is so easy to be isolated. I don’t want to be and I know that to learn different resources, make a new friend and attend different activities, it is good for my mother and me. At the same time, I really love to give my hand to help other seniors. I believe that this is the way to build up a better and harmonious community.
Mencius, an early Chinese philosopher once advocated this: ‘Care for my own aged parents and extend the same care to the aged parents of others; love my own young children and extend the same love to the children of others.'”
“For many years, we have not had a lovely day like today.”
More than 50 seniors living at Menno Court enjoyed a special day at the end of February. For many years, they had not been able to come together to share food, celebrate a festival or watch a live music performance. But, they had all the happiness this year.
Menno Court is an independent living site with about 300 seniors. Most of them are low income and socially isolated. Since last summer, the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House – Allies in Aging – Neighbourly Together Project has provided information sessions, door-to-door outreach, and neighbourly gatherings there. It cheers up the seniors. They believe they are not forgotten.
During the Lunar New Year Festival, Neighbourly Together invited a Chinese traditional musical band to give a live performance. The band brought back sweet memory to the Chinese seniors, as well as to those from diverse cultural backgrounds. More exciting, a few residents shared their own talents such as playing harmonica and singing. Some seniors helped setting up in the early morning without being asking. They also felt so good when neighbours appreciated their volunteering.
Sam (not his real name) lives in BC Housing and was very much alone and isolated. Before outreach connected him with Burnaby Neighbourhood House, his main destination was a fast food restaurant near his home. After becoming a regular at the Seniors’ Together Program, he started to volunteer with set-up and now joins other seniors on a monthly outdoor program. More recently, Sam joined a new seniors’ community kitchen program, where he is learning about nutrition and how to cook for himself. Through his involvement with Allies, he has increased his social network and embraced a healthier lifestyle, even shifting to green tea instead of drinking coffee.
“When I was unexpectedly retired, I thought what do I do? I move forward. With the support of my family I was encouraged to get out and get involved in something new. I came to Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, I decided to take Senior Peer Counselling, which led to training as a Neighbourly Together volunteer. I just feel so good working with seniors. I bring patience and good listening skills.
“Now, I’ve gone from a volunteer to a leadership role, supporting a volunteer team doing Neighbourly Together outreach. I like to encourage other volunteers and motivate them. This kind of role has given me a new confidence. It has added so much to my life. I hope to enjoy the rest of my life as an active person. It has turned my life around 180 degrees. Embrace every day and say, ‘This is going to be a good day’. That’s how I live my life.”