April 18-24 is National Volunteer Week, a time to pause and reflect on the immense contributions of volunteers across the country.
Dying with Dignity Canada (DWDC) has relied on – and been sustained by – a group of incredible volunteers since 1980, when our work defending end-of-life rights began. “The Value of One, The Power of Many” is the theme for this year’s National Volunteer Week. Those who volunteer at DWDC take on a wide range of roles, making our organization stronger. Together, we create monumental change.
Our Board of Directors are volunteers who advise our governance; we have dozens of support volunteers across the country who act as Independent Witnesses in the MAID process; several volunteers assist with our education efforts, delivering presentations on end-of-life choice and Advance Care Planning; and it is fair to say that all our volunteers support our advocacy work in one way or another, sending letters to their decision-makers and setting meetings with local parliamentarians.
Over the next week, we will be sharing on social media the stories of four volunteers and the work they do to support our greater mission of ensuring all Canadians have access to quality end-of-life choice and care.
These are their stories.
Volunteer role – Advocacy
Ron is a doer. He likes to focus on what people can do, as opposed to what they can’t do. This was his philosophy when he worked with children with disabilities, as a teacher, consultant and school superintendent.
A retired man, Ron was diagnosed and lives with dementia. He has shifted his work and energy to caregivers, dementia-friendly communities and medical assistance in dying (MAID). In 2018, Ron was a guest on CBC with Michael Enright about MAID. After the show aired, Ron received over 5,000 responses from Canadians who wanted more information, so he created his own website and speaks about MAID to anyone with a listening ear – the media, community groups, and more recently, the government during the Bill C-7 review.
“I see myself as an independent advocate for MAID and end-of-life choice. I enjoy collaborating with organizations like Dying With Dignity Canada, but I’m most effective as a free agent.”
Ron’s new goal is to sit on a committee for the upcoming parliamentary review of our MAID legislation and ensure that Advance Requests for MAID become law. He’s advocating for himself and the 747,000 Canadians living with Alzheimer’s or another types of dementia.
Interesting fact: Ron is an airplane pilot, a goal he set for himself as a teenager.
Mary Anne Cecutti
Volunteer role - Chapter Chair
Mary Anne jumped in with both feet first when she decided to lead and form the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Chapter of Dying With Dignity Canada. With a background in process and improvement, she also took on the enormous task of editing and updating the Chapter Resource Manual because it is the basis of information from which the Chapters start and can be most effective.
Mary Anne was so pleased when over 100 people attended her first two information sessions about the new GTA Chapter. From there, she was able to recruit an excellent team to form the core Chapter roles – all of this took place virtually through Zoom.
Mary Anne is inspired by the good people she has met in her time with DWDC, both as an Independent Witness and as the Chapter Chair.
“In 2021 I’m looking forward to meeting people face-to-face. Those I have met virtually are intelligent, gifted, passionate people, and I can’t wait to meet them in person.”
Interesting fact: Mary Anne is an excellent chef and loves to throw a party.
Volunteer role – Independent Witness
Nadine is a natural caregiver. As an Independent Witness, Nadine sees her role as providing extra support to an individual who has already made the most challenging and courageous decision of their life to be assessed for a medically assisted death.
In addition to her full-time work as an office manager, Nadine offers companionship to people who are at end-of-life, both at home or in care facilities. She considers herself a ‘special flight attendant.’
“I want to bring peace and dignity to the existence of those courageous ‘travellers of life’ who decided to take control of the itinerary of the life journey,” she explains.
Interesting fact: Nadine loves costumes; she wore a different costume for five consecutive days to promote an office Halloween costume contest.
Volunteer role – Board Member
Tammy has been a volunteer with Dying With Dignity Canada for five years. She joined when she was a student at the University of Ottawa, making her one of our youngest volunteers. Two years ago, she declined an offer to join the Board of Directors in order to gain a little more experience. She subsequently became a member of the Board in late 2020. Tammy’s motivation for joining the Board is to offer a different perspective – that of a younger generation and as someone who is a visible minority.
Tammy’s strengths include education and advocacy.
“I enjoy taking a complex topic, simplifying the information and delivering it in a presentation. I have presented to local community groups, at school and even to Senators.”
She looks forward to bringing her perspective to the Board of Directors and using her voice at a local and national level to create change for end-of-life rights.
Interesting fact: Tammy loves exploring sport and dance. She points out that you can learn about a culture’s history through their dance. She even tried “Krump” dancing!