By Suzanne Asselin

The uninvited arrival of COVID-19 not only turned our personal lives upside down, it also affected Hope & Cope volunteers who work in the hospital as well as at the Wellness Centre. In an instant, everything changed as we were sent home to await the arrival of a vaccine and with it, a return to normal life. Recognizing that our mission to help patients and their families cope with cancer remains essential, since mid-March, the Board, staff and the Volunteer Management Council (VMC), chaired by Ida Teoli, have spared no effort to ensure that we continue to reach out to those who need us.

Indeed, for the past four months, under the supervision of Program Manager Carly Berlin as well as other staff, classes, workshops and webinars facilitated by volunteers have been offered online via the ZOOM platform.  A complete list of weekly offerings can be found on our website (https://www.hopeandcope.ca/events-activities/). While the response has been positive overall, we recognize that on-line activities cannot meet all the pressing needs of patients and their families.  Furthermore, not all volunteers feel comfortable with this format.

To determine where volunteers fit into this new reality, Eric Amar, Hope & Cope’s new executive director, gave the VMC a mandate to identify possible volunteer virtual roles and responsibilities. Ida Teoli formed a committee consisting of 10 volunteers representing all areas of Hope & Cope. The committee met regularly over a period of several weeks and recently presented its series of recommendations to Hope & Cope’s Board of Directors.

As a first step, all volunteers who previously worked within the hospital or the Wellness Centre will be contacted to see if they would be interested in offering support to patients and their families either by phone or online. A training program will be offered to help ease this transition from in-person to virtual support.

Over the course of the next few months, the Council will continue to examine new ways to establish meaningful connections between patients and volunteers as well as among volunteers.

In the meantime, should you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to Ida Teoli: ida.teoli@sympatico.ca