clip-art-meeting-819707Sometimes I think to join committees you should be committed. I say this as I finish a 3 year mandate on the User Committee of a residence of people who are losing their autonomy.

Wednesday this week is my last official act as president and member of the committee. FREEDOM!

I must admit that I landed in the committee by accident. I was attending an Annual General Assembly directed to family and friends at a residence for people losing their autonomy. I went with my sister who was attending it for the second time. It was brand new to me.  I didn’t even know the committee existed before that but I figured I would go listen to see what they were all about.

The meeting ended with a call to action. I followed my sister to the table because she was considering joining. When she learned the time the committee would be meeting, she had to desist since it was during her work hours. My work hours fit better so I left my name.

At the first meeting I learned the year I signed up for was actually three years.

First red flag.

I also learned I was the most bilingual  person there so I was the new secretary. They wanted everything in both official languages. No time was given to get acclimatized to the functioning and the jargon of the meetings.

Second red flag.

I informed them I was a full-time working mom finishing a second cycle university diploma. They said, no worries, they understood and it wouldn’t be too much. They would even help.

Third red flag.

It was too late, I got pulled in… blindly…like so many others.

But like others, there is something that must have called to me for me to approach the table. And like others, I realised how important such committees are for the masses.

These committees are the voice for people who do not have a voice or are afraid of repercussions if they speak up. Some do not have family nearby to support them. They are alone, fragile and afraid. Lets face it, some have been forgotten. They simply exist until they will not exist anymore. They feel invisible.

Committees like the one I am leaving, try to see these people. They defend the rights of the residents. They hope to make the residence a decent place not only to live but to live fully.

The people who join these kinds of committees invest energy and time FOR FREE! There is so much frustration when things don’t seem to move forward. Worst still would be to think no one would be willing to even try.

Here is a little food for thought. Families who are struggling because they have a sick or fragile family member, are simply trying to stay afloat.  With all the appointments to fit into an already full week and the adjustments to the new living arrangements they are also dealing with the grief of the loss of independence and health. They often don’t know where to get answers or don’t even know which questions to ask. They need these types of committees to speak up for their loved ones and them. They need to know they are not alone and their worries are valid.

We have been that family trying to navigate the system for my husband. Though he never needed a residence, he did need therapies and services to relearn to talk, move and generally function. Trying to navigate and defend his needs, we were blocked at every turn. We were brought to the brink of exhaustion. We were so close to falling through the cracks of the system. We were lucky to be just angry enough to find the last bit of energy to fight back. It had come close…too close.

I wish I knew then what I know now about User Committees and their role to ensure that people would never have to come as close to giving up as we did.

I am grateful that I got to join.

I am grateful I got to learn.

I am grateful that I got to serve.

I am also grateful that I have finished my mandate almost unscathed.

A piece of me screams FREEDOM and another worries for those who still don’t have a voice.

If one day I no longer have a voice, would you be mine?