Alternative volunteering: Health-care symposium project summary
by Francois Pan on May 19, 2015 - 7:23pm
Health-care symposium project summary
My first volunteering experience with elders was a year ago when I was recruited as volunteer by Sino-Quebec de Rive-Sud, a Chinese immigrant integration organization, to scheme a program for the Spring Festival Gala. Afterwards, I also volunteered during a Feng shui symposium at Brossard library where many Chinese elderly people have attended. Unfortunately, the lecture was only given in French and a large proportion of Chinese audience either left out of boredom or stayed out of courtesy. That is the moment where I realized that the social integration of senior Chinese immigrants cannot be significantly improved if the language and cultural barriers are not taken into consideration. However, no concrete idea had occurred to me until months later…
Chinese families often evaluate the academic success of their children over their practical ability. It is often the mother or the grandparents who do household chore of a family in order to leave more time for their children to study. That is the reason why every three months when my mother goes back to China, my grandmother would take the shift and fly over to take care of me and my cousin. Her daily routine, similar to that of many dedicated grand-parents living abroad, consists of cooking, shopping for foods, cleaning and watching TV. As she doesn’t speak English or French, she doesn’t go out often for other reason than doing the groceries. The only habit that she has kept from China was her daily 4 hours of exercises. Although she rarely shares her feelings with me, I could still tell that she is not used to her new lifestyle in Canada. Back in China she would have much more opportunities to talk to her friends, play Mahjong or simply work at her school affairs. Compare to her life in China, her life in Canada is much more socially isolated and monotonic. However, as I have been busy keeping up my studies, I didn’t pay too much attention to my grandma’s conditions. The severity of the situation alarmed me couple of months later when I crossed Isobel Mackenzie’s report on Seniors Placement, Drug and Therapy. The research report based on the health assessment records of 55000 senior residents in BC reveals a strong correlation between the misplacement of elderly people in a community of severe physical and cognitive impaired residents and the decline of these seniors’ mental health condition. The results of this report not only disclose how BC government policies compromise some of its senior citizens well-being to reduce its expense in health-care but the report also demonstrates how fulfilling community involvement experience is crucial to the mental health of the aged. That is when I first had the idea of organizing, with the help of SQRS, a senior health symposium on proper self-care methods as well as the prevention of common geriatric diseases. It appeared to me that it is very difficult for people of old age to rededicate themselves to learning a new language. And it is even more difficult for them to psychologically overcome the cultural barrier between the two nations where the values, customs, lifestyles even humor differ largely from one and the other. The same logic can be used to explain the low odds of Chinese boys’ establishing an interracial relationship in South-Shore region. So instead of making my grandma learn French and English grammars, I find it more practical and more enjoyable to simply create a platform where people of my grandma’s age can get to know and communicate with each other. The plan was to gather the organization efforts of me and my partner Qiuzi, the venue sponsor of SQRS, the information on local immigrants from the city hall and the 20 years of self-care experience from my grandmother to make a health symposium. According to my understanding of the term, this sharing of resources in order to achieve the maximum potential of each individual involved can also be interpreted as a form of new power. The peer-driven and spontaneous sharing of ways and means is one way of how new power contribute to social change. This concept of new power is also discussed in my recent post Order of priorities- patients first. The news article in question summarizes how in a recent negotiation between the OMA (Ontario medical association) and the Ontario government, the OMA appealed for the public support in putting more pressure on Wynne’s government’s cut in health-care budget. Another interesting remark of this news article is how OMA voluntarily offered a two years suspension of the physician fees as a bargain chip to push the government in allocating a larger budget to health-care. In my opinion, the effectiveness of new power in provoking social change also lays in the sacrificial effort contributed by each individual participating in that movement.
After a week of consultation effort and attempt at collaboration, our project ran into two big walls. Firstly we went to the Brossard city hall to try to obtain the contact information of local Chinese immigrants. Our request was turned down by the city hall because we don’t work for any government recognized volunteer organization. Secondly, when we attempted to obtain assistance from SQRS, the personnel responded to us that the center has stopped giving aid to non-lucrative project led by a third party other than the city hall and SQRS due to budget shortage. Apart from the inaccessibility of the services and information at the municipal level, I also personally experienced one of the effects that the budget cut in health-care and social assistance have caused. In my recent post Angels on strike, I discussed how three thousand Ontario nurses and other health-care workers went on strike to protest against the increasing pressure from the cutback in health spending and the growing demand for patient care. The underfunded and overloaded health-care system have not only compromised health professionals’ physical and mental health, but also as a consequence impaired the quality of local health-care delivery. However, there is less pressure on the government funded social services agencies and organizations as their social obligation are less quantified. By legally reducing more non-lucrative activities, these organizations can largely relief themselves from the financial constraint. However, during this process, the diversity and the quality of social services delivery are often relentlessly compromised. In a time where individuals’ social and ethical even environmental responsibilities are increasingly offloaded to public services and to the state citizens, the partial withdraw of government funding would inevitably cause the inconvenience or suffering of people in need of the services.
The unexpected turn of event forced us to change our plans. Since I have being teaching children Chinese in my house for a while now, I decided to contact the parents of my students to spread the information about symposium. As there is now readily available site for the symposium, I will make my house as a temporary solution to the problem. Surprisingly, the few parents and friends to whom I have spoken to responded quite positively to the proposition. Some of them even offered to help organize the event. Incidentally, I think there is an interesting parallel to make between the organization of this symposium and the 2015 Korean peace march. The Korean peace march which will be taking place in the end of this month is an international peace protest organized by many world-renowned human rights activists in an effort to end the segregation of the two Koreas. Many Korean elderly ended up past away before getting to see their lost family members at the end of the Korean Demilitarization Zone after 60 years of separation of the two Koreas. Although the good deed embraced by this peace march has won strong support from the international community, the proposal has not been approved by South Korea government. Regardless of the South Korea’s position, the organizers still publicly announced that the march will take place as it has been planned. This event shows that often the lack of support from local authorities do not represent a reason to abandon the initiative but a warning sign that there is a urgent social need which is either denied or ignored by the society. The omission of that need makes it all the more important and valuable to undertake the responsibility against all obstacles. Interestingly, there will be only 30 people participating in the peace march. However, the small number of participants does not make the deed that they are embracing less important or less noble. It is with their dedication in mind that I wrote the welcome letter of the health symposium, below is a copy of the letter.
My name is Pan Xun Xin. I am a student in Champlain College and it’s my fifth year in Canada. In my spare time, I teach little children Chinese whom I enjoy a lot spend time with. Quebec is a very big province and a particular cold one. It is not always easy to adapt to the coldness of the winter in Quebec and it is even more difficult to get used to the desolation of the streets especially during Spring Festivals. That is why I think it would be excellent to gather together on a sunny spring day with friends, families and nice food. It will be a prefect occasion to meet, talk and get to know each other. Also, my grandmother is impatient to share with you her 40 years accumulated knowledge on health-care, diet and nutrition with which she directs self-treatment for her type II diabetic conditions with a big success. I invite you to leave your contact to us so we can come up with a date that suites everyone’s schedule. I am anxious to meet all of you and I hope the wind of May brings all of you luck and happiness.
Pan Xun Xin