Meet Our Leaders
During a visit to the Courtice Community Complex, Sam saw a flyer for the Self-Management Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Pain workshop. The flyer asked, “Are you living with Chronic Pain?” and Sam certainly was. At the time, he was relying on heavy medication to manage his pain and was desperate to find other options due to the negative side effects from the medication. Within two weeks, he was taking his first workshop and it was life changing.
“I was able to reduce and eventually stop relying on opioids all together. Once again, I was also able to participate in my favorite activities,” Sam exclaims.
With a background in adult training and education, and being newly retired, Sam enrolled to become a workshop leader.
“I was excited to become a volunteer leader and to use my skills and personal experiences to help others with similar challenges. I knew that this opportunity would have so much meaning.”
Sam received his certification as a Chronic Pain Leader and co-lead his first workshop in October 2019.
When asked what Sam liked most about leading the classes he said, “I am generally a sceptic or cautious when trying new things – I tend to tread carefully until I get comfortable. Now, I recognize the same apprehension in some of the workshop participants in the early sessions. However, with just a little knowledge and patience you see the same person, who was hesitant, change and become an active participant. It is so empowering to see these participants benefiting from weekly action plans and contributing to class discussions. The positive approach of this program encourages participants to seek knowledge and ask questions so they can become confident self-managers of their own health.
Sam acknowledges that life is never perfect, but says, “In attending the Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops, we have a much better idea of how to stay well, and what we can do if things get tough”.
Sam loves to go for walks, and still plays tennis and golf – adjusting the level of play to match his new health and lifestyle. He enjoys spending time with his equally fabulous wife Betty and their two lovely daughters who are the light of his life.
Cathy was living in Kitimat, a very small town in northern B.C., when she was first diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. She did not know anyone else on a diabetic insulin pump. There was so much information to take in and she felt very alone in the experience, so her doctor recommended she take a Chronic Conditions Self-Management workshop. After Cathy completed the workshop, the Self-Management Program was looking for new leaders and asked Cathy if she would be interested in applying to be a volunteer peer leader. She was sent to the training, which she loved, and found her fellow trainees had similar challenges with their health. She immediately felt the value of having support from people who understand what she was going through.
Cathy started leading classes while living in B.C. and when she moved back to Ontario in 2006, she continued leading classes here. Cathy loves witnessing the change in people over the course of the six weeks.
“When people come into the first class, they are often lost and feeling overwhelmed, especially if they are dealing with having diabetes. They have a lot of information from other health care providers, but just do not know where to start to try to make the changes they need to make. By week six they are finding out they can do so many things to help improve their health and feel better. In the Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes you see in the first class how exhausted many caregivers are – often from trying to do everything themselves. Over the six weeks, they learn how important it is for them to look after their own health and how the skills and tools they are taught in this workshop help them to do just that!”
Cathy continues to support the program online during the pandemic through her amazing skills and compassion for others, as both a class facilitator and Master Trainer for new leaders.
When not leading workshops, Cathy loves to garden. This year she is growing a garden of vegetables rather than flowers! She also loves babysitting her two grandchildren, aged 11 and 13, who enjoy playing card game challenges with her.
Register for Cathy's upcoming online Living a Healthy Life with Diabetes workshop here /workshop?id=6600
Vicki heard about the Powerful Tools for Caregiver program while helping her Mom with an appointment at the hospital. At the time, Vicki’s sister was the primary caregiver for their parents, and Vicki wanted to know more about how she could support her sister and her parents. In the workshop, Vicki found the content very useful and the textbook a great resource tool. She also found the excellent facilitation skills of the two class leaders and their compassion for the participants made the workshop such a pleasure to attend. At the end of the six-week workshop, the class leaders mentioned the program was looking for more leaders. Vicki had just retired and thought it was a great opportunity to do something meaningful.
“I really believe in the program. I think because as class leaders, we all have personal experience as a caregiver, the empathy and compassion we have in leading these workshops makes the material real. I continue to use the skills and tools that I learned in the class, they have changed the way I approach many everyday situations,” said Vicki.
Vicki trained as a leader for the Powerful Tools for Caregiver program and led her first in class workshop in September 2019. Since then she has jumped onboard to lead the workshop online, seamlessly transferring her amazing facilitation skills to a new platform.
Her favorite part of being a leader is when someone in the class has a real “ah-hah” moment. “Something being discussed rings so true for them and they experience a deeper understanding of what they are going through personally. During action planning each week it is so great to see caregivers share a tool or strategy they learned about in class; they tried it, and it worked for them! I also love those moments when a caregiver reconnects with something that brings them joy; understanding how important doing things for ourselves is, that it is not selfish to look after our own health.”
When she is not leading workshops, Vicki loves to golf and spend time with her four grandchildren, two girls and two boys.
In 2013, Ruth was grieving the loss of her husband and friends suggested
volunteer work might help. She saw the Self-Management Program was looking for
facilitators and thought this is a volunteer opportunity with real value. She
could apply her people and presentation skills from her career in Human
Resources, and continue to meet new people; something she loves to do. Ruth
also felt it was important to learn more about health care and the important
role of Self-Management education.
She trained as a leader and led her first workshop in January 2014. When asked what she liked best about leading classes, Ruth responded that she enjoys empowering people to take charge of their health and feels grateful for all she has personally learned from the many different participants in the classes. “Every class has learning moments for everyone”, Ruth says, “It’s really exciting to be a part of something so powerful. I love that the classes are free for the participants and that they are provided with a free textbook that gives them so much valuable information!”
Ruth also loves seeing the comradery and support participants offer each other in this group learning setting. In one particular class, there was a young man who was having a lot of difficulties adapting to the major changes in his life due to being in severe chronic pain because of a car accident. He was
a young dad and very angry at the circumstances of his life. In one class, he had a moment where he strongly vented his anger and frustrations; the class reacted with great support, demonstrating compassion and empathy. You could see the impact the group had on him and the dynamic was so powerful that he calmed down, apologized to the group for his outburst and thanked them. He
continued to come each week, and you could see him starting to change his perspective of things, there was now this sense of hope about him. It is as if the workshop opened his eyes.
Ruth loves visits with her three children and eight grandchildren, entertaining, gatherings with great conversation, and charades and card games. She also enjoys auctions, gardening, swimming and just trying new things.