Glen Cairn’s Peter Henry is just one of more than 300 people on a waiting list for volunteer support through Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa.
Henry said he enjoys being active, swimming, curling, going for walks with his black lab Zeus and taking part in Kanata-Hazeldean Lions Club activities, but can’t participate as much as he would like because he is visually impaired. Henry has very little light perception and zero vision due to a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which destroys the retina, as well as glaucoma.
“It could be worse,” he said, sitting in the sun room of the retirement residence where he lives, with Zeus curled at his feet. “I’ve still got my legs. I’ve still got my arms. I can still get around.”
The problem is he lives on a busy street with no crosswalk or sidewalk, so getting around can be difficult.
“There’s no way for me to get across on my own,” said Henry, who sits on the Lions Club board of directors and manages five committees, curls with the Ottawa Blind Curlers at the City View Curling Club and spends time at Saunder’s Farm, which is owned by a relative.
Henry had been previously matched with a volunteer, but due to health reasons the partnership ended. Now Henry is hoping to find someone else who can offer him support.
“Just because you don’t have vision doesn’t mean you can’t do things,” he said, adding he enjoys going to movies and Ottawa Senators games.
Peter is on a waiting list for an Everyday Champions volunteer through Citizen Advocacy; the organization sends volunteers to work one-on-one with people with disabilities. Matches get together once a week for a few hours to share activities they both enjoy.
“He’s such a nice man,” said Heather Badenoch, a Nepean resident who works for Citizen Advocacy. “He’s really accomplished in many ways but he can’t get out on his own.”
Badenoch has been working to find Henry a volunteer who can help him with running errands, reading his correspondence and getting to and from his various activities.
“Volunteers don’t need previous experience; they’re like advocates, they’re like friends,” said Badenoch, adding people are matched based on interests, proximity and other factors.
“He’d like to curl more than once per week and swim laps like he used to, but he can’t do those activities alone. He needs someone with whom to practise the mechanics of the game, (and for) guidance and support – as the ice sometimes could be fast and slippery – for curling and a spotter in the pool,” she said.
Henry uses ParaTranspo when needed or OC Transpo, but it can be difficult because there are very few trips through the area where he lives. If he misses a bus, he could be waiting several hours for the next one.
With Christmas coming, Henry said it would be nice to be able to do some shopping outside the Kanata area if someone could drive him or accompany him on the bus, as well as attend the annual Citizen Advocacy’s holiday party with him – something he hasn’t been to in 12 years.
“I’m very open,” he said about finding a volunteer. “We’d just work it out.”
For more information, visit citizenadvocacy.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 613-761-9522.