This story starts with two women, friends, in a small Turkish café in South Vancouver, on a cold, rainy afternoon, one Autumn day in 2015. This is where Amie Peacock, the Visionary Founder of Beyond The Conversation shared with me her idea of creating a non-profit organization to end social isolation.
I knew right away this idea was relevant, important, and could evolve and be of interest to others, I also knew I had to be involved. Beyond the Conversation had just moved from being an idea to a real possibility where lives could be changed and enriched, Beyond the conversation had come alive!
In the beginning, Beyond the Conversation facilitated English Second Language groups in the community as a way of connecting with isolated citizens. Volunteers were trained to facilitate “English circles,” we came together in church basements and anywhere we could find.
On weekends and evenings, members of the community came forward to participate, we had momentum, the English circles were at full capacity, they were engaging, presenting with emerging bonds, and most importantly, new and enduring friendships. Myself, Amie Peacock and our league of truly extraordinary, dedicated volunteers knew we were onto something, something impactful, something meaningful and something that had a future trajectory.
Then on January 30th, 2016, I was asked by Amie Peacock to host & officiate a celebration for our Beyond the Conversation volunteers at the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House. Each volunteer was awarded a certificate of recognition, by the Honourable Harjit Sajjan. We had reached a milestone, we now had official recognition from a Member of Parliament. We knew we were supported by the community and now could move forward with even greater vigour on our purpose-driven path.
Beyond the Conversation then grew to include an even larger team including A Lead composer & community weaver, Director for National Development, Director for Marketing and Development, Marketing and Event Coordinator, Team Support Coordinator, Technology and Marketing Advisor, Secretary, Chair and Co-chair, Web Developer and Graphic Designer, Media representative, Cafe’ and Podcast contributors, Friendship Ambassadors, A Mentor and Marketing Adviser & A Multicultural and Community Liaison Advisor.
Beyond the Conversation then accrued major supporters, partners & sponsors: Google, Site Ground, Van City, FaithTech, G & F Financial, Nesters Market, Cactus Club Cafe’, Earnest Ice Cream, Forerunners, Fresh Slice, Canva, The Rotary Club of Fraserview, & UBC, as well as many individual donors. A website was then developed where anyone could read about our story, our volunteers, our team, our funders sponsors, supporters, initiatives, goals, community and virtual events and podcasts.
Then in 2019 my journey with Beyond the Conversation was interrupted, as a result of a diagnosis of a diseased spine and two failed lumbar-back surgeries. Then on July 29, 2019, I could no longer work at my job and had to take a medical leave of absence. I was then referred to St. Paul’s Hospital Chronic Pain Clinic for long-term treatment. I became an out-patient at St. Paul’s
Hospital and continue to be an out-patient to this day. At St Paul’s Hospital, I undergo regular lumbar and thoracic procedures with the goal of improving my diagnosis and hopefully getting back to a better level of functioning.
An important part of my story to share is that my employer has been totally supportive throughout my treatment, and continues to be today. I often receive calls, emails and cards expressing support from my colleagues and our leadership team at work. My employer has been nothing short of a lifeline of support to me, ensuring that I know, that when I am well, when I am fully recovered, the door is open for me to continue with my career. We have never stopped corresponding and this is a key component to my ongoing recovery and my sense of hope. I also have cherished friends as supporters and cheerleaders who have and continue to stand beside me every step of the way.
Then this year, 2021, as a result of my lived experience, Amie Peacock, the founder of Beyond The Conversation, invited me to produce and present my own podcast. We are now looking forward to the first podcast, “From Pain to Recovery,” going live at the Beyondtheconversation.ca website on Monday, October 25, 2021, at 7 pm PST. I look forward to destigmatizing pain, to having engaging and new wave discussions around. What it means to live with pain on a daily basis. What it means to feel isolated and alone as a result of chronic pain. How those with chronic pain can re-define their lives, not lose their identity, but re-emerge from the pain with an attitude of gratitude.