August Outreach – Elders Gathering
By Sarah Dunham, hospitality team lead, intern summer 2018 from the USA
With our bright yellow volunteer shirts, about a dozen OUR Ecovillagers made the trip to Duncan to volunteer at the BC Elders Gathering held at the Island Savings Center.
Every year the elders gather from tribes all across BC and this year it was happening right in the Cowichan Valley, our community. When the offer came to us to volunteer we were honored and excited for the chance to serve our indigenous elders and neighbors. The days of the gathering were hot, the floor plan was a maze, and the energy was high, as it was a sort of annual reunion of thousands of old friends.
We were assigned various tasks and jumped in with hundreds of other volunteers of all ages, to learn and help and experience all we could. There were some hectic and stressful moments, but also many beautiful, deeply meaningful moments. There were tears and so much laughter! I had a conversation with one young grandmother about her experience in the “residential schools” and how grateful she is that her daughter is taking their indigenous language in college so that it will not be lost. I helped book elders in for massages and haircuts in the Self Care area, and learned how to make a dream catcher in the arts and crafts room. Walking with elders through the hallways to guide them to their next destination I heard many stories and some really great jokes.
The theme of this gathering was “We are still here”. And I felt that theme from the first moments of the opening ceremony, to the volunteer appreciation dinner at the end- this was resilience. “We bend, and oh we have bent far, but we do not, we will not break.” I am honored to have been included in such a beautiful gathering and I am motivated to connect further with the indigenous community wherever my husband Jared and I end up going next.