Registration for the 2024 Walk for Immunodeficiency is now open!

Volunteer Spotlight: Wendy

May 18, 2024

Meet Wendy, Leader of the Ontario CommUnity Connect Group!

Volunteer Position: CommUnity Connect Peer Support Group for Ontario 

After attending ImmUnity Canada’s support groups and receiving, viewing, and submitting my volunteering documents, I was accepted.  This led me to start leading the monthly Ontario CommUnity Peer Support Group for individuals with primary immunodeficiency. 

What motivated you to volunteer? 

I have been diagnosed with primary immunodeficiency, and I know firsthand how challenging it can be to find and connect with others who share the same diagnosis and are looking for information. This was particularly difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, as vaccines and masks became a part of our daily lives, and many people didn’t understand the unique challenges faced by those with primary immunodeficiency.

Tell us a little about what you’ve done as a volunteer

I lead a virtual CommUnity Connect Group every month in Ontario for people who have been diagnosed with one of the many forms of primary immunodeficiencies. This online platform provides a safe, private, and convenient space for everyone to express their thoughts, share their concerns, and connect with others in the PI community in a non-judgmental environment. Such community support is crucial for the quality of life of those with primary immunodeficiency.  

Furthermore, I had the pleasure of extending my support to ImmUnity Canada by conducting a  search and contacting multiple venues within my province that could potentially serve as excellent options for their forthcoming Walk for Immunodeficiency event, taking place across the Canada.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for us?

Volunteering is a highly rewarding experience that goes beyond giving of one’s time. It offers the opportunity to meet new and diverse people from various walks of life whom one might not usually come across. By volunteering, one can reassure others that they are not alone, provide a listening ear, empower them, and demonstrate that someone else understands their struggles, especially for those who have primary immunodeficiency.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a volunteer and how did you go about achieving it?

I don’t evaluate my volunteer work in the same way I would assess my professional accomplishments. For me, the most important thing is being welcomed into someone’s personal life, listening to their stories and worries, and making a positive impact, no matter how small.

What have you learned about yourself from volunteering with ImmUnity Canada?

One thing I learned from volunteering is that I share many similarities with my mother, who was born during the Depression and has since passed away. One of those similarities is my ability to empathize with others. My little brother and I grew up in a small bungalow in the countryside, raised in a single-parent household. Our mother was known to help people in need. On three separate occasions, she returned home with strangers she had met at the corner store while picking up milk. One time, in particular, she brought home a young, pregnant Aboriginal girl she found crying in a phone booth, with nowhere to go.  Our mother kindly welcomed her into our home and took care of her until she was able to regain her independence. 

How has volunteering for us had an impact on you?

Through volunteering for ImmUnity Canada, I have been able to establish my own personal connections with the PI Community. This experience has empowered me to better understand my primary immunodeficiency. Furthermore, it has given me a sense of purpose and satisfaction as I strive to positively support and impact others.  

What is one of your hidden talents that not many people know about?

Recently, someone asked me about my hidden talents that not many people know about.

In response, I asked my son for his opinion. He said that he sees in me the ability to empathize and understand what others are going through, and I agree with him. I believe that my age, the era in which I was born, and my life experiences, both with and without a PI diagnosis, have given me the ability to intuitively understand and know other people’s struggles. It all comes down to listening.

Additionally, my daughter-in-law pointed out that I have an artistic side, as evidenced by my paintings, writings, and storytelling to my grandsons.  If I have a talent, that would be my hidden talent.

What type of superpower has living with a PI given you, and why?

I believe that everyone possesses a hidden strength, a personal superpower within themselves to draw upon. The PI Community deserves recognition for their ability to persevere in the face of adversity. Each person has a unique story to tell, and living with PI is just one of many challenges they may face. We living with PI should not let it define us, but rather, we should rise above it and strive to live our lives to the fullest. We need to demonstrate to the world and, more importantly, to ourselves our strength and resilience in the face of this condition.  We need to believe.  We need to believe in ourselves.

In summary, I would have to say the superpowers PI has given me are strength and resilience, believing in myself, advocating for myself, friends and family and refusing to let it define me.

We’re sick and tired, but we’re not alone.

ImmUnity Canada is a national charity with five provincial chapters across the country.

We empower Canadians impacted by immunodeficiency disorders to live well through education, support, advocacy, community-building, and research.

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