Community Papers

Penticton group offers training for volunteers

The Penticton & Area Women’s Centre is gearing up in a major way to increase services to people with disabilities. A one-year project training volunteers to help people access needed resources is underway through funding by the Government of B.C., Employment and Labour Market Division, and Community Foundation of the South Okanagan.

“There’s a lot of people hurting out there,” said PAWC executive director Bernadette Otto. “We’re doing our best to meet the demand for advocacy services, but we need help.”

“Trained volunteers,” Otto said, “will really assist us to cope with the large demand.”

One woman with severe health problems has been turned down for disability funding four times. This because the case is complex, and difficult to document.

Another family is seeking help for their adult son whose medical condition is deteriorating.  He has been unable to receive disability income and support services.

These are but two examples of the hundreds of people throughout the region coming to PAWC for disability assistance, so many there’s a substantial waitlist.

PAWC’s Disability Advocate works with them and their doctors to send in an application for benefits to the Ministry of Social Development. The service has been popular in large part to her successful track record in getting applications accepted. Focusing on concise and detailed examples of impacted daily living has made the difference.

That’s what the project is about: training volunteers in Penticton, Summerland, Oliver and Osoyoos to help with intake, to steer clients in the right direction, and to speed up the process for everyone.

“We’re hoping to train at least 15 volunteers in January,” Otto said. “Are you good at active deep listening? Are you willing to learn? If you’re good with people, you’re compassionate and respectful, we want to talk with you.”

The January training session scheduled for Jan. 25 will feature Stephen Portman, Legal Advocate with the Victoria organization Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS). Portman oversees a successful Volunteer Disability Advocacy Project. For more information about becoming a volunteer with PAWC, contact 250-493-6822, or

“We hope the word will get out,” Otto said, “and this project will be outrageously successful for all our communities.”


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