This week is all about our volunteers! From British Columbia to Newfoundland, these are the people at the very heart of our organization who enable us to make advancements in Crohn’s and colitis research and awareness. For this year’s Volunteer Appreciation Week, we want to make sure they get the recognition they deserve by shining a spotlight on their work.
Peter Dobranowski is the Chapter President and Treasurer at Fraser Valley West. Based in British Columbia, he has been volunteering with us for five years. Over time, he has made strides in connecting underserved communities with the resources provided by our organization.
Why did you first become involved with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada?
At the time, I didn’t know anyone else living with Crohn’s or colitis, so I was looking for a way to connect with other people with IBD. The Fraser Valley West chapter needed volunteers for the Gutsy Walk that year, so I lent a hand—and next thing I knew, they elected me president! Since then, it has kind of snowballed to become a huge part of my life.
What is your favourite part of volunteering with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one thing I love the most—I’ve just become entrenched in volunteering for so many reasons!
I enjoy the responsibility of the leadership role. It’s a unique experience to come to meetings prepared—not just with an agenda and informational presentation—but mentally poised to empathize with, say, parents scared for their child’s health.
With this role, and other opportunities that have followed it, I’ve gained so many skills that have helped me elsewhere in life. Event planning, public speaking, and qualitative research are just a few of the skills I have developed as a result of my involvement in the community. In a way, IBD has opened more doors than it has closed, largely thanks to Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.
One aspect of volunteering I really like is the ability to pioneer new avenues of support for underserved populations. IBD affects 1 in 140 Canadians, but so many people don’t have access to the support Crohn’s and Colitis Canada offers. I’m working with an incredible team within my chapter to increase access for the local Indo-Canadian community, and I’m hoping it will gain traction across Canada. I like to think: “if we can make an impact locally, why not nationally—or even globally?”
On a deeper level, the reality is volunteering is a way of coping. At some point, many people with IBD realize it never really goes away. Even if your symptoms are under control, a part of you is just waiting to see if they come back. After volunteering and becoming more deeply connected to the community, I know support is there if I ever have another flare. That wasn’t the case when I was first diagnosed.
Lastly, someone in my chapter recently referred to our group as a family—except we’re related by diagnosis rather than by blood. Everyone at our meetings automatically “gets it,” but brings their own perspective, personality, and sense of humor that makes the two hours go by way too quickly. We’ve been in tears laughing at jokes you can’t make anywhere else. I’m so grateful to know these people.
To all our volunteers—thank you for your hard work and dedication! Stay tuned for more spotlights coming up this week. In the meantime, you can read the stories of the other volunteers we interviewed here.