Thursday, May 12, 2016

Time Well Spent

My new volunteer position started at an exhibit at The Chinese Bunkhouse.

Last week, I wrote about the difficulty of navigating the volunteer recruitment software system in my community. I have been looking for opportunities to use my experience and education in retirement.
When I am in Oaxaca, opportunities abound. Teaching, tutoring English, assisting at an orphanage,
library's all available. There is no tracking or criminal record checks or volunteer interviews. All that is needed is a willingness to help.

Last Saturday, I went to a volunteer orientation at the heritage shipyard museum. All of the other volunteers were students. Sunday, I had my criminal record check. It's odd to me. Years ago, I was on the board of the Information and Volunteer Society and I wrote the newspaper adds to recruit volunteers. More years ago than that, I worked for the Crime Index Section of the RCMP, doing none other than criminal record checks on a Cardveyor Index Machine (sort of like a giant Rolodex). I have been an educational professional for 30 years. As a retiree, I felt like I was suddenly worthless.
The volunteer position that I was applying for is open to 15 year olds. What does that say for my last 50 years?
Working conditions would have been very cold and damp.

Friday, I started as a Heritage Guide and Greeter. I have visited the site many times before and I had reviewed all of the material in the volunteer handbook. I was uncertain how many visitors I would greet as it was a weekday. I was given a 2-way radio and placed in the Chinese Bunkhouse building.
I had taught about the coming of the Chinese to the gold rush and to work on the Canadian railway.
Unfortunately, the indentured workers could not pay back their fare and the head tax charged by the Canadian government. They had no choice but to stay in Canada and comprised the largest group of
cannery workers on the coast of British Columbia.

The beds were barely 5 feet long. Seventy-five men slept here.

I was surprised by the number of visitors to the site. I enjoy meeting travellers and found the exhibits
fascinating. I have walked by the Heritage Shipyard many times but the major exhibits are only open when there is a volunteer guide available. I look forward to leading visitors throughout the site during the summer.  It seems that my initial difficulties with technology have paid off and I am on my way to a successful volunteer experience.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Older Adult Volunteers

shipyard museum
Travel has played a large part in the first five years of my retirement. My desire for learning was fulfilled by my studies at the Sorbonne and I was very happy working amidst the books at the Oaxaca Lending Library.  Now, for the sake of my marriage, my puppy, and my finances, I need to spend more time at home.

For me, daily social interaction is essential. For 25 years, I worked in school libraries where hundreds
of students, teachers and parents visited daily. Before that, I worked in a small and friendly public library. As a stay-at-home mum, I enjoyed playgroups and shared activities with other young families.

Currently, I have volunteered to sort donated bakery products and to count money at the church. Unfortunately, these are mainly solitary endeavours that provide me with  little satisfaction.  I
am looking for skill-based volunteer opportunities. I have teaching, library and writing experience.
I am friendly, fluent in English and French, and computer-literate.I am able to learn new skills but I can be quite slow and awkward with manual tasks. I enjoy working with other people who are similar in interests and age. The problem seems to be that I am 64 years old and have been retired for almost 5 years.

Last week, I  completed online applications for volunteer positions in Vancouver and in Richmond, the suburb where I live. It seems to me that society has placed many obstacles in the paths of would-be volunteers. Various volunteer management software systems have required me to create
accounts with user names and passwords. I worked with computers in the library and supervised computer relief classes at school but for an older adult, the technology could be off-putting.

It seems to me that certain volunteer positions should be aimed at elders with a lifetime of skills and experience. Personally, I feel reluctant to apply for a position for which the minimum age is 14. There are programmes which feature multi-generational volunteer opportunities but as a former teacher, I really want to work with adults now.

Partial success! I have been accepted to lead a book club for older adults at a community centre and to be a guide at our local heritage shipyard museum. I am well-qualified for these two positions as I worked in libraries for 30 years and researched and wrote a children's book (still unpublished) about a local shipbuilding family.

Saturday, I attended an orientation at the shipyard. The average age of the volunteers was about 50 years younger than I am! Nevertheless, I took my criminal record forms into the RCMP detachment
office and was set to register for some volunteer shifts this morning. Guess what! I can't log in.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rambling On

I enjoyed walking through villages in Devon.

It seems to me that when one is almost midway through the 7th decade, one is entitled to one's preferences. As time grows shorter, it is important to establish priorities.  I am "une flâneuse", a person who loves to stroll without any particular purpose and to look at shop windows, street signs and passersby.
I have no grandchildren but I love the window!

I am not a "shopaholic" but I love to see items displayed as an art form. Shop windows tend to be my 
navigational tools. I'm likely to say "just past the cheese shop" or "around the corner from the bookstore".
I don't play any stringed instrument but I loved these guitars in Lerwick.

I enjoy rambles through beautiful countryside but even more, I love to stop to look at flowers,
drink a glass of wine at a pub or visit an old churchyard. Although I can walk for hours, the physical exercise is just an added benefit. I try to imagine life in a village or wonder how many hours it took
to create a work of graffiti.

misty morning in Cornwall

At home, where the automobile reigns supreme, there are not so many places to walk. Large homes without gardens are replacing the smaller, well-kept bungalows of the past. In the fishing village near me (no longer really a fishing village), apartments are replacing the small homes
of fishermen and cannery workers.
seaside cottage in Devon
In our community, a pathway has recently been built for walkers and bikers. Unfortunately, blackberry thickets where birds and small mammals lived were removed. The new plantings will take 
some years to develop. It's a pleasant place to walk our puppy or to have an ambulatory chat with a friend, but it is devoid of whatever makes a walk interesting to me. I try to walk 3 times a week but for the last little while, my walking buddy has been under the weather. I think that I need to start planning my next trip!