Volunteering- Be very careful about what you choose.

I’ve had quite a few volunteer experiences since I retired in 2017 and I am here to report on them all. I did a post on volunteering when I first retired. Nothing like real life experience to see how things work.  Baby boomers are not your grandparents volunteers who beavered away at rummage sales and church teas. Many BB’s had responsible jobs and know how to manage people and things.  BB’s have more knowledge and expertise than those who are hiring them as volunteers.  This can be intimidating for young volunteer managers.  

Clinical Trial at UBC

My first volunteer gig was being part of a clinical trial at UBC. The idea was to test an iphone App called BrainHQ to see if it improved your memory. There were already many studies on this app so I am not sure what was new about this study. The study involved two groups, one that used the app and one that did not. Sadly I was in the group that did not get the app until the end of the 6 week study. Of course you want to know the results but so far they have not published the results. There were many cool things about this volunteer gig. If you are interested in participating in clinical trials, some are online. Here is the link.

  1. I could walk because I was close to Vancouver General Hospital’
  2. We attended an activity three times a week for 6 weeks that included some exercise, games, spreakers and conversation.
  3. I got tested on a whole lot of cognitive function tests and they gave you the results at the end so you can see if you are loosing it.. or by how much you are loosing it compared to people your age. The testing included an MRI which is why I took one point off.


  • Fun factor 7/10
  • New friends 0/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 10/1
  • Treated with respect 9/10
  • Overall Rating 9/10

BC Science center tried to recruit me to stand in the lobby and click a clicker to count the people coming through. You much be joking.

ESL tutoring

The next volunteer gig was assisting at English as a second language classes at Mosaic in Vancouver which is a huge organization. I have recently recertified as a teacher in British Columbia so I thought I could get some recent experience. I was supposed to be a teachers assistant to the real ESL teacher. I was assigned to a class with about 10 people who had close to no English comprehension and were from multiple different countries and from ages 20 – 90. One elderly person was deaf and cognitively impaired. Another person had some learning disorders. There were about 5 people who had potential to learn English. My job was to help students when they were doing small group work. This will rank as my worst volunteer experience ever.

  • Long bus trip to the classroom.
  • Waste of my time
  • Was told I was not to make any suggestions to the 25 year old tutor.


  • Fun factor -1/10
  • New friends 0/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 1/10
  • Treated with respect 1/10
  • Overall rating 1/10

Review of the literature on non- symptomatic Covid 19.

I volunteered for this as my real job had involved a lot of health care research and it thought this would be a good use of my talents. I was assigned and the question and wrote a paper on the topic for a group at UBC. This was early 2019 and there were not many papers on the topic so it was rather a short job but interesting. I have been very interested in the whole COVID 19 process. About 2 years later a received a lovely thank you letter from UBC that I am thinking about framing. I was invited to an online think tank on Zoom but there were about 30 people talking over each other.. OMG. Won’t do that again I said to myself. So I decided I had had enough of this project. It was overwhelming. It was my first experience with grandstanding.


  • Fun factor -9/10
  • New friends 0/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 10/10
  • Treated with respect 7/10
  • Overall rating 7/10

Immunization clinics

Fast forward to Covid 19. I volunteered at the immunization clinics for Vancouver Island Health Authority in Courtenay. I was responsible to herding people through the lines to the nurses and making sure everyone was feeling comfortable with the process. Then I would site in the after care space chatting with people. I feel that this has paid all my debts to society. It was very well organized. I was hard to stand for 4 hours. But I enjoyed chatting with the wide variety of people coming through the clinic. The big surprise at the end was the goody bag given to all the volunteers at the end include many gift cards and a bottle of wine. Who knew????


  • Fun factor -9/10
  • New friends 0/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 10/10
  • Treated with respect 9/10
  • Overall Rating 9/10

Habitat for Humanity online auction

I volunteered to research objects donated to the Restore to see if they are valuable enough to put in their online auction. This involved going into a dark and dusty closet can pawing through cartons of old stuff. Stuff included pseudo vintage snow shows, copper tea post, vintage figurines and other strange things that I could not identify. Since this was a new job, I set up a process to do the online search and set up a file with the results. The Restore is a busy spot and space it at a premium. It was interesting to see why kind of thing people donate. This was a surprisingly time consuming activity. I went to a few meetings. Not my cup of tea.


  • Fun factor -0/10
  • New friends 0/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 5/10
  • Treated with respect 2/10
  • Overall rating 5/10

Sitting the quilt

While on Hornby Island I did some shifts sitting in the courtyard among the businesses selling tickets for a quilt raffle. This is the ultimate meet and greet job. You get to chat with everyone passing through Hornby Island for all over the world. What could be more fun?


  • Fun factor -10/10
  • New friends 1/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 5/10
  • Treated with respect 9/10
  • Overall rating 9/10

So what lessons have I learned?

  • Volunteer work can be physically demanding so be sure you have the stamina to do the job.
  • Do you like the person who is hiring you?
  • Do you thrive on chaos. Some do! Not me.
  • For me it is important to have some interest in the work
  • I like doing meet and greet and I am good at it. And it makes everyone feel good.
  • Its hard to find a fun and interesting volunteer job.
Recommendations to volunteer coordinators.
  1. Have written job descriptions for volunteers, including the number of hours per week and the length of the volunteer commitment. 
  2. Make it clear who the volunteer reports to.
  3. Have a schedule available from day 1 unless the job is on-call.
  4. Have a short job orientation including a tour of the premises and introductions to others.
  5. Avoid the requirements for criminal record checks if possible.  It’s a hassle.  Just because you can do it on the computer doesn’t make it any easier.  I have an existing criminal record check as part of my teacher certification, had one done in 2021 to work in the vaccination clinic, and then was asked to do it again in 2022 to volunteer for island health. I was just asked to do another one to volunteer to teach Ukrainian refugees. That’s three times in three years.  The RCMP has to process all these requests.  
  6. I did appreciate the gift cards I got from one volunteer gig.  I am not into volunteer appreciation events. Call me a curmudgeon. 😊😊😊. 
  • What has been your favourite volunteer gig and why? Or why haven’t you volunteered?

artwork is by ALPIN KELLEY on Hornby Island

Overcoming Zoomaphopia. Part 2 Topics for discussion for zoom social groups

This is the second part of a series of three blogs outlining how to set up and run Zoom social meetings. The first part is how to download and set up the Zoom App, the second part is topics for discussion and the third part is how to set up a zoom discussion/support group.

This section is a list of topics my Zoom group has used. They were all interesting and sometimes controversial topics which added to the fun factor for me. The first 30 min of the meeting was a brief update from each person about highs and lows of the week and the group found this a very valuable part of the meeting.

“Zoom calls done right, with the right people and the right trust in place is an astounding opportunity to gain better understanding of others and most notably, better understanding of self” https://retirementreflections.com.

  • Did you have a desire to pursue another career, yet life moved you forward in this direction? What other career path would you have chosen knowing what you know now?  Why?
  • What is the most useless talent you have?
  • What talent don’t you have that you wish you did?
  • Share something that has inspired you this past week. e.g.
    • personal anecdote
    • good news story
    • photograph
    • piece of art
    • nature
    • blog post
  • Recall a time that you have been politically active in a political party as a volunteer, campaign manager, candidate, or in some other capacity. Or alternatively, have you ever been an activist (e.g., participated in a march, letter writing campaign, blockade, etc.)? What motivated you to become active in a political party or a political activist? If you have never been politically active or an activist, why not?
  • We are now in the ninth month of Covid-related restrictions. Please share one, or several, positive impacts this experience has had on your life and/or relationships. When this is over, how will 2020 not only be a year of loss and limitations, but also one that – because of the virus – we have personally learned something, done something, or experienced something we might not have otherwise?
  • Baking-Do you like to bake, or are you a big believer in getting sweet treats from the bakery instead? Does Christmas inspire you to bake? Do you have an old family recipe that you turn to again and again? Has COVID inspired a new interest in baking? Do you have a recipe or baking disaster you want to share?
  • Select an old photo of yourself that you really like – preferably one that is at least 10 years old.  Tell us the story of that photo – who were you? What was happening in your life?
  • Have you ever done a “gratitude practice,” and if yes, what was it and how did it work for you? Plus, what are the THREE most important things you are grateful for right now?
  • A colleague once told me that he didn’t believe in retirement – that it only happened when we passed away. Up until that point, we are merely ‘writing’ new chapters in our life. In that spirit, describe this current chapter you are living in right now. Where are you in this chapter – a new beginning, a middle, or an end? What 2-3 phrases best describe you in this chapter?
  • I have been fortunate to have had mentors. In school, work and in life. Do you have a mentor you would like to share with us?  How did they mentor you? How did they change your life? It can be more than one person from the past or the present.
  • What do you fear about getting older?
  • If you could be any animal, what would you be?
  • Do you have a favourite childhood Christmas memory?  A Christmas tradition you carry forward?  A new tradition? If you do not celebrate Christmas, do you enjoy the holiday season in other ways?
  • What long term change, or new habit, can you see in your life as a result of this extraordinary COVID period?
  • What are your coping strategies during Quarantine/ LockDown/ COVID19
  • Best Apps for your phone
  • If you could be any animal, what would you be?
  • What are some of your favourite books?
  • What is your Enneagram type?

With thanks to some of the Blogging Zoomers for their contributions. https://retirementreflections.com

Pandemic winter dread is real. Here’s how to conquer it. – Vox

Pandemic winter dread is real. Here’s how to conquer it. – Vox
— Read on www.vox.com/platform/amp/future-perfect/2020/10/14/21508422/winter-dread-covid-19-pandemic-happiness-psychology

The quilt as metaphor for life on Hornby

Yesterday I sat the quilt. The person who sits the quilt sells tickets to the quilt lottery. It is such a cool job. I meet people from all over Canada and the US… Whitehorse, Washington, Toronto/Ottawa, Courtenay and Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. The quilt is a beautiful work of art by Hornby Artists. Some of the artists in the community have been contributing blocks to the quilt going back to at least 1980.   The quilt format has moved from traditional patterns to abstract forms and embellishment with embroidery. The quilt is more a piece of fabric art than a quilt.  The theme of the quilt was Activities which is keeping with the Room to Grow building which is the fundraising focus. Each square represents typical Hornby activities.

2019 Activites

Each person’s square captures of bit of their life on Hornby. The story of the quilt is so much richer by knowing who has done which parts. 


This square represents the music played by local musicians at the Community Arts Council and the square is done by Louise McMurray who is the Director of the Community Arts Council.

This square represents Room to Grow Building that will receive the funding from the quilt raffle.IMG_4790Room to Grow Marg Bennett

IMG_4793Polar Bear Swim Helen Onorah

One of the most whimsical squares is the Polar Bear Swim at Grassy Point that I attended as a spectator this year. Someone joked that one of the figures in the quilt square must be me.

The landscape on Hornby is one if its principal attractions, whether it is the sandy beach of Big Tribune, the cliffs of Helliwell Park or the sunsets of Grassy Point.  Other popular activities are mountain biking and birdwatching.. not at the same time, sailing, making music and reading.

Mountain Biking Peggy Kabush
Bird Watching Alpen Kelley
Quilt Show Pippa Moore

At least one person has made a square for the 2019 and the 1980 version… 39 years ago. Here is what the 1980 version looked like. I think this is drawings by children that were translated by quilters. The process of quilting has certainly changed in 39 years, becoming more fabric art than blocks of colour and patterns.  

1980 Children’s Version

And here is the 2020 interpretation in stained glass by Ted Godden.

Ways to Help People Without Actually Doing Anything (and Why They’re Actually Better) – Colin Michael Lucien Jonathan Nelson’s Blog


via Ways to Help People Without Actually Doing Anything (and Why They’re Actually Better) – Colin Michael Lucien Jonathan Nelson’s Blog

I was reflecting today on ways to contribute to the community and I think the gift of friendship is what I can give back.



My adventure with standup comedy.

comedy club smallMy debut as a stand up comedy was a couple of weeks ago here on Hornby Island.  I am hesitant to write about it because I may generate more notoriety for myself. The experience further supports my feelings that I have found my Happy Place on Hornby Island like so many people here.

Our teacher was Jenny Brown who is a Hornby part-timer from Portland Oregon. She broke it down into simple steps and encouraged everyone regardless of how awkward they were. Stand up comedy is a lot like drawing…. people think they can’t do it,  but once it is broken down into steps it is do able by everyone.   The class started out with about 15 people which quickly dropped to 5 courageous souls.  webteaser 6

When people learned I was doing the comedy class the standard response was ‘’oh how scary”. It did not turn out to be scary at all. Once I got up on the stage and people started laughing at my reflections on life on Hornby I felt like I was on a roll.   It was just like joking around with friends which I do all the time. So the only difference was I had to stick to my script.

The downside to doing a public show is that people recognize me around town. I am used to going about my business in total anonymity.   I am still adjusting to my new found celebrity.. small as it is on the island. I have been deeply touched by the feedback I have had from people who recognize me and are so kind to tell me how much they enjoyed my comedy set. There was an audience of about a 100 which was a sell out for the venue and it raised money for someone getting a liver transplant.

I regret waiting to do this until I retired. I should have done it sooner.   Adventures abound close to home and you don’t have to fly to Zanzibar.  My adventures on Hornby have surpassed my Mexican and European adventures with the added advantage of not having to get on a plane or pass through customs. Don’t wait until you’re retired to get outside your comfort zone. Try it out for yourself like Theatersports on Granville Island in Vancouver and elsewhere.

Comedy graphics by Bee Wolf Ray


Volunteer job screening

Like many other retirees, I thought volunteering was going to be an opportunity for personal development and social connections after I stopped working. I found that not to be the case.  So here is my check list to assess volunteer opportunities that may fit your wish list. The scores can be changed depending on what you are looking for.  I higher score is a more intense volunteer experience, a lower score, one that will take less time and resources.  You can download the Excel file here so you can score the form easily. volunteer screen.

 Recruitment and training  
1         How long is the volunteer candidate screening process? 1 month 2 months 3 or > 3 months score
3 2 1
2 Will a criminal record check be required? yes no
2 1
3 Will training be required yes no
2 1
4 how long is the training? 1 day or more 4-8 hours 1-4 hours
3 2 1
5 Can you walk there from home? no yes
2 1
6 Is parking available? no yes
2 1
7 How available is parking ? never sometimes always
3 3 1
8 What does parking cost? <$5 per shift > $ 5 per shift free
3 2 1
9 Is parking reimbursed? no yes
2 1
10 How long does it take to get there from the time you leave home? < 1 hour 30-60 min < 30 min
3 2 1
11 Is it on public transit? no yes
2 1
12 Personal safety in location scary Normal secure
3 2 1
13 How long is a shift? 8 hours 4-8 hours < 4 hours
3 2 1
14 How many shifts a week are required 5 or more 2-4 1
3 2 1
15 How long is the volunteer commitment? More than one month Less than one month One time only
3 2 1
16 What about if you want to take some time off? They can’t accommodate can accommodate with notice no problem
3 2 1
17 Can you take the winter season off to be a snow bird no yes
2 1
18 Morning shift Yes no
2 1
Nature of the work/job
19 What are the demographics the volunteers? Students Job seekers Seniors
3 2 1
20 What kind of clients? Vulnerable/     fragile/non English speaking normal Low maintenance/easy
3 2 1
21 What is the boredom meter (repetitive tasks with zero mental challenge) high medium low
3 2 1
22 Intellectual challenge low Medium high
3 2 1
23 Social interaction low medium high
3 2 1
24 New skills or knowledge acquired? none some lots
3 2 1
25 Travel required yes no
2 1
26 Physical energy required A lot some none
3 2 1
27 Speed required A lot some none
3 2 1
28 Patience required A lot some none
3 2 1
29 Stamina required A lot some none
3 2 1
30 Computer skills required A lot some none
3 2 1
31 Memory required A lot some none
3 2 1
Total score 0

Things I’ve learned about retirement

When I retired from my job in health care in March 2017, I worried about what I was going to do with myself. This has been a busy year, busier than when I was working. And I didn’t need to worry about what I was going to do with myself. I first started out by reading some books about retirement but got too busy to read them. At first I thought I needed to reinvent myself like many of the books suggested. I did a couple of assessment tests and discovered what many people have known about me all long. I am creative, curious and I love learning. Ok so what to do with that?


I have been taking part-time classes at Emily Carr for a few years. One of the courses I took at Emily Carr was on web design but it was really about coding HTML. I was in way over my head and memory capacity so I changed direction into WordPress which is a blogging platform that doesn’t need coding skills. My blog is http://theUnretired.life. I started out thinking that a blog was a way to generate income but that did not turn out to be the case. Instead it brought me intangible rewards with connections to many interesting bloggers all over the world. I also learned about retirement from lots of people who were living it. You will see posts from some bloggers on my blog. My favourite is John Weiss, the policeman turned cartoonist and life philosopher.

The brain

One of the first things I did when I retired was volunteer for a clinical trial at UBC to test a computer app called Fitbrain. Unfortunately I was in the control so I am no smarter for doing the study. Everyone did a 3 hour pre and post cognitive function assessment. I was better in some things and worse in others. A sobering moment. The other study I volunteered for was a longitudinal study on brain function. The studies took up about 3 half days a week for about 8 weeks. It was fun and interesting to meet people and I enjoyed the activities and exercises at VGH.


I started volunteering at Mosiac, a large agency for refugees tutoring English as a second language to people with no English skills whatsoever. It was the most challenging job I have ever had and I have new respect for teachers of English as a second language. At the same time I signed up as a virtual volunteer to write grants for CUSO for a project in Honduras. So by the time Dec rolled around I realized I was overcommitted so have backed out of everything except my teaching gig at Potts. The lesson learned is the volunteering is hard work and takes a lot of time away from other things in my life.

Teaching English as a second language.

Who would have guessed I would end up in a third career teaching English as a second language? Way back in 1970 I graduated from teachers’ college in New Brunswick and this year I got my certification updated for BC. In Sept I started tutoring an 11 year old in China over the Internet. In November I was hired by Potts Education Studio in Richmond to tutor school age Chinese students in English as a second language. I have 7 students from grade 4 to 12 and I work 3 afternoons a week which is perfect. I love the other teachers and the students and I am finding it more enjoyable and satisfying than health care. To say I underestimated the prep time required would be an understatement. I need to upgrade my knowledge of grammar and English Lit. What I leaned is that I have some transferrable skills and there are employers who are age-positive. The owner of the student is a Caucasian man from Ottawa who speaks fluent Chinese. He is a joy to work for.


Thousand Islands, New York State

I had a beautiful trip to Ottawa to visit my oldest friends. We have know each other since we worked at the Montreal General Hospital in 1970. The weather was perfect and my hosts toured me around to lots of interesting sites including the Thousand Islands. In Sept I did a home exchange with Portland Oregon and stayed in a lovely upscale downtown condo . It was an easy place to visit and lots of places to walk. It was smoky from the forest fires.

Loving and loosing.

In April an old flame who have moved away from Vancouver reconnected with me and we visited in person a couple of times but in the end he decided not to move back to Vancouver. Lessons learned.. It is better to have loved and lost and I enjoyed the experience despite things not ending the way I would have liked.

My blessings

I continue to appreciate the company of friends and family both near and far and appreciate the opportunities that have been offered to me. I feel like one very lucky person. My thoughts are with my friend Kuy who is the most courageous person I know. I wish her a speedy recovery.

Merry Christmas to all. I look forward to more visiting with everyone both virtually and in person in 2018. Love to all and thanks to everyone who has been a contributor to my blog even if you did not know I was reposting your blog.  I learned that I am not a writer.   Ann

Fascinators never fail to fascinate