By Suzanne Asselin
In April, during National Volunteer Week, we met Christopher Wrobel and Mark Samoilovich, two volunteers who offered fascinating webinars on Zoom on the topics of permaculture gardening and essential oils. Both volunteers share a common passion – a love of plants and the sense of wellness they impart. Over the past five years, Christopher and Mark have transformed our Wellness Centre garden into a magnificent oasis.
‘’I like Hope & Cope’s integrated approach of offering yoga, tai chi, qi gong, cooking classes, art workshops and so many other activities to cancer patients. I believe that this holistic vision really contributes to improved well-being,” says Christopher.
Christopher came to our organization via the Jewish General Hospital’s Emergency Room, where he was treated for accute appendecitis. Impressed with the quality of care at the hospital, he wanted to give back. ‘’I phoned Dr. John Hoffer, a friend of mine who is a researcher at the hospital’s Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, and he suggested that I contact Hope & Cope.”
A graduate of McGill University’s McDonald Campus, Christopher is an expert in permaculture. For the past five years, he has used his knowledge of and passion for plants to benefit our Wellness Centre.
After proposing an overall design, he began cultivating plants that can flourish with a minimum of water, fertilizers and weeding. He chose flowers native to our area which are very resilient and easier to maintain. The result is a beautiful and colorful tableau of flowers such as echinacea, iris, rudbeckies, and gaillardias as well as two apple trees – all growing in perfect harmony.
Christopher recently built a flowerbed to attract pollinators to the garden. Bees, butterflies and perhaps hummingbirds will be a welcome sight for all those who will enjoy some time in the garden this summer.
As Christopher proudly concludes, ‘’More and more people are becoming aware of the therapeutic benefits of gardens on overall health and well-being. Investing my time in a cause that’s near and dear to my heart is gratifying.”
Four years ago, Mark, a young man in his early 20s, learned that his mother had breast cancer. Knowing that his grandmother had suffered from depression after being diagnosed with breast cancer and had succumbed to the diseae, Mark panicked. Much to his surprise, his mother announced that all would be well. After her operation, Mark often accompanied her to her chemotherapy treatments, bringing essential oils to scent the air. ‘’She was very confident and I think her positive attitude contributed to her healing,” he says.
A short time later, Mark’s mother joined the Wellness Centre, where she benefited from our Exercise and Rehabilitaiton Program. She introduced Mark to Wellness Centre Manager Marcelle Kecman, proudly noting that he was studying at McDonald College. And since the garden was in need of some tender loving care, Mark offered his services.
‘’I felt a moral obligation to give back to repay the wonderful care that my mother had received at the hospital and the Wellness Centre,” he explains.
Christopher Wrobel already had begun clearing the garden. Mark tackled a section that had been overrun with weeds. He also persuaded the Birri stall at the Jean-Talon Market, where he purchases annuals, perennials and herbs, to give a discount to Hope & Cope. ‘’This is my way of making an annual donation,” Mark explains. ‘’In the fall, I harvest and dry the herbs and then they are sold at Hope & Cope’s reception areas at the Centre and the hospital.”
Always eager to take on new challenges, Mark recently joined the Communications Committee of the Volunteer Advisory Council. He administers our new private Facebook group for volunteers and hopes to increase traffic to the page.