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The future is in our past


Atlantic Canada reports that volunteers contribute the equivalent of 66,000 full time jobs annually. Perhaps in a time when jobs are scarce and the economy is shrinking, the role of volunteer should be re-evaluated. But not today. Today is the day for celebrating volunteers. On April 29, Brookfield Bonnews Health Centre and the Town of New-Wes-Valley gathered together 100 volunteers for a celebratory volunteer recognition dinner, at which volunteer appreciation certificates were presented to volunteer groups. With one volunteer representing each group, it's easy to understand the magnitude of the area's volunteer industry.

Atlantic Canada reports that volunteers contribute the equivalent of 66,000 full time jobs annually. Perhaps in a time when jobs are scarce and the economy is shrinking, the role of volunteer should be re-evaluated. But not today. Today is the day for celebrating volunteers.

On April 29, Brookfield Bonnews Health Centre and the Town of New-Wes-Valley gathered together 100 volunteers for a celebratory volunteer recognition dinner, at which volunteer appreciation certificates were presented to volunteer groups. With one volunteer representing each group, it's easy to understand the magnitude of the area's volunteer industry.

April 27-May 3 was national volunteer week and the theme was From Compassion to Action. The citizens of the New-Wes-Valley/Lumsden area know this theme well. They can always be relied upon to answer the call for volunteers, even using the Appreciation Dinner to raise funds for a family in need.

After the usual excellent food, which was even better because of the mustard sauce, according to Mayor Grant Burry in his greeting, the Jubilee United Singers provided excellent entertainment. Their rendition of Amazing Grace (before dinner) set the upbeat tone for the evening. A medley of songs kept with the theme of compassion and action. Beverly Fifield and her choir is indeed an asset to community spirit.

Community Health Facilitator Michael Jones directed events. Since his recent induction into this new role, he has worked tirelessly to facilitate community health. Client Care Services Manager for Primary Health Care Tracey Kean talked about volunteers and their contribution to the healthcare system. Her area covers 21 towns from Hare Bay to Frederickton, which illustrates the complexity of rural healthcare.

To reduce complexity, it's evident that long overdue services are being established. As well as managers, the mental health staff includes Mental Health Case Worker Marguerite Riggs, Mental Health Social Worker, Nadine Noble, and an Addictions Counselor, who is expected to commence duties in May.

Brian Tremblett from the Health Foundation was on hand to thank volunteers for their efforts at fundraising. For instance, Mr. Jones and the volunteer community raised $15,000 for healthcare with a snowmobile Ride for Health, organized in just three weeks.

Director of Health Services Yvonne Humphries ended the event with an overview of what the health centre is trying to achieve with community health. She said, "Community health is as successful as you and your community can make it."

Ms. Humphries is right. It's perhaps no surprise that Brookfield Bonnews Health Centre partnered with the town to host the volunteer appreciation dinner. There is a real movement afoot to try to entice communities back into the healthcare picture, at the volunteer level.

Community health cannot be successful unless the community takes a lead role. In order to take concrete steps toward making community health a success, we have to look carefully at change.

Change means change from the usual way of being. We can all agree with the words and then rest on our laurels and imagine someone else doing the work. Or, we can ask what can we do to make healthy communities a reality? The government has done its part by providing the template for change. The community must fill in the blanks, with its own ideas. It is quite clear that one size does not fit all.

In order to understand what is needed to move forward, we have to grasp the fact that this community movement is not new. For more than a decade, the World Health Organization and world economic organizations have been trying to spread the word that communities should look after communities.

But there are always two sides to every coin. As this movement was gaining momentum, there was a counter movement to make organizations bigger and take the control away from communities, through centralization and globalization. Leaders accepted the globalization model and rural development money disappeared.

Presently, it looks like there won't be a shootout at the O.K. Corral. The downturn in the global economy may have the effect of thrusting us back to basics, whether we like it or not. The community health model may be the right model at the right time. It could even be used as model for the looming food crisis.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, we're lusting for change, for we have the added burden of a healthcare system run amok. This is evidenced by the revelations at the Commission of Inquiry on Hormone Receptor Testing. For a variety of reasons, we may be better positioned for change.

There is nothing like catastrophe to focus the mind and coax people out of their lethargy. Some of us have longed for the good old days. We may be about to get them back. But look out and about. We may be returning to basics but we have been given tools for meaningful change. The one tool that no one can give us is a selfless open mind.

The opportunity is there for change and a chance to spring forward into volunteer action of a different kind. We can now start channeling some of our time into keeping our communities and people nourished and healthy.

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