All Sides of the Coin – Part 2 “Participant”

by | POSTED: Jan 23, 2013

Bissell Centre employee Sissy Thiessen shares her story of assuming the various positions of volunteer, program participant and employee within Bissell. This is a three-part series that will be published separately.
By: Sissy Thiessen

PART 2: Me as a Participant of Bissell Centre

The next phase I entered in my journey at Bissell was on the other side of the table- as a program participant. While I was still a volunteer, the manager of Food Services offered me an opportunity to participate in a First Aid Course as part of a women’s program that was running at the time. It was a full day course, offering a certificate in Standard First Aid, as well as infant-level CPR c. Realizing an opportunity for professional development when I see one, I jumped at the offer. There were about 10 of us, all appearing to be of First Nations descent. Some were with child, others said they had to make stressful arrangements to coordinate child care for the day.  Sissy 001

So there I was- sitting at a table in a training room, lunch being served to me, when I was so used to the other way around. I almost felt guilty about taking this service, and felt like maybe I was taking someone’s place that could have used it more than I could have. But then I realized- much like the welcoming experience to volunteer at Bissell, another gift was presented to me, and I should not question whether to accept it.

While we were eating, another participant told me about struggles her partner was facing with substance abuse and how she feared for their future. Another told me about the difficulties of finding employment while being a parent. I felt honoured that they chose to share their stories and obstacles with me. Through my life, work and volunteer experience, I have learned how difficult it can be to come forward, admit you are struggling and ask for help. And here I was, in a volunteer role that could help provide people with meals, recreation and a chance to get away from their worries for a while.

I worked side by side with this women’s group to learn how to perform chest compressions, free a blocked airway, bandage an injury and many other useful skills to assist in an emergency. I sat alongside them and learned what it felt like to receive a social service. I needed something and was given a helping hand. Once again, Bissell had shown me what it means to empower and enable people.