With the help of a nearly-$50,000 grant from the provincial government, the Near North Palliative Care Network (NNPCN) will be able to provide training for the “new generation of volunteers.”
Monica Do Coutto Monni, executive director at NNPCN, says many of the network’s volunteers, who provide mental support to those in palliative care and their loved ones, have predominantly been part of the baby boomer generation.
“Now this generation is of course ageing and now becoming retired and are, unfortunately, becoming our clients,” she said. “If one-third of the population is facing the end of life, the other two-thirds will be caregivers and will be grieving multiple people.”
With $47,800 provided through the Ontario government’s Resilient Communities Stream, Do Coutto Monni plans to purchase equipment and tools that will allow the NNPCN to create professional-grade, online psychosocial training resources for a younger generation of volunteers.
“We are trying to support this brave, newer generation. They’re heroes, really. They want to help during their lunchtime, during their weekends or while taking care of their kids,” she noted.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Do Cuotto Monni says NNPCN volunteers were providing care entirely in-person.
When the pandemic hit in March and health protocols no longer allowed in-person meetings, Do Cuotto Monni and the NNCPN had to adapt.
“We had to reinvent ourselves overnight,” she said, adding the network had a “good part” of its volunteers trained to give care over the phone.
And the need for the NNPCN’s services only grew as the pandemic progressed.
“The number of people who do not have anybody to talk to and are living alone and in depression and don’t have enough care is staggering now due to COVID,” Do Cuotto Monni said.
As the pandemic increased the need for the NNPCN’s services, it also cut into its ability to raise money for its operations as fundraisers could not take place and small businesses struggled.
“When our local businesses were thriving, they were helping a lot,” Do Cuotto Monni pointed out.
The provincial grant now gives the NNPCN the opportunity to provide more accessible training resources for its volunteers, which Do Cuotto Monni hopes to use for years to come.
“In my ideal world, we would train the whole community for free here in the north,” she said.
The NNPCN has about 120 volunteers, but Do Cuotto Monni says there’s always a need for more.
You can contact the NNPCN on its website, social media or by phone to become a volunteer.