Category Archives: volunteering

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 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




July 19 Women In Tech

I have started volunteering with an amazing group of young women who have started a start-up organization for women in tech.  They started out in Vancouver and now reach out to 7 cities in Canada and the US.  Although I am not in technology they have welcomed me as a volunteer as they are an all volunteer organization.  They are all very young and enthusiastic and it is inspiring to see women of the next generation evolving.  One of the most interesting young ladies was from Belize via New Orleans and another young lady was a Korean brought up in Russia.  I went to one of their meetings last night. There was a speaker who described her challenges as a women in the field of technology but it sounded just like the challenges women of my generation experienced in the world of work.  I don’t think these young women know how good they have got it.  They need to do have a dose of Mad Men.    They are a non-profit and welcome donations.

This week I have updated the page on this site about computers and the internet.  It is just a guide for people new to the internet.