National Volunteer Week: Geneviève Bertrand

Many of us who contribute to the work of ALS Canada as volunteers have a personal connection to ALS, whether we are living with the disease ourselves, or supporting or remembering a close family member, friend, colleague or acquaintance. We are spurred on by the hope for a cure, and want to do something to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. Compassion is what drives us — even if we have no personal family history with ALS, we are moved by the courage and resilience of the community and want to do our part to help.

I’ve spoken with dozens of ALS Society volunteers in my 10 years of service, first with the Board of ALS Quebec, and more recently on the Board of ALS Canada, where I currently serve as Chair. Many volunteers express the same strong desire that I grew up with to give back to the community. Volunteering and donating to charity in my family was always part of being a caring, contributing member of society, consistent with my parents’ belief in working for the common good. At the age of 17, I held my first volunteer role as Treasurer of the Board of Directors of l’Association de Handball Olympique de Laval. Over the years, I volunteered on various charitable boards, served on pharmaceutical and transportation councils with the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, and helped launch two daycare centres.

In 2007, I became involved with the ALS Society of Quebec after my best friend’s mother developed the disease. At the time, I had a longstanding interest in brain science that was spawned during my childhood when I lost an uncle to multiple sclerosis, which like ALS is a neurological disease. My Masters’ thesis explored connections between brain function related to memory and management software systems. So, from a research perspective, I was naturally curious about the work being done to uncover the causes of ALS and discover effective treatments. From an emotional standpoint, watching my friend care for her mother over the course of her illness compelled me to do more than stand by as a witness.

Serving on ALS Canada’s Board of Directors has been a time of personal growth and a source of deep satisfaction for me. A volunteer myself, I recognize the vital contribution being made by all who give their time and talents in support of our shared cause. As a small health charity with no core government funding (although we are working tirelessly to advocate for it!), ALS Canada relies heavily on volunteers to play a role in all aspects of our work – fundraising, administration, governance, client services, research, awareness, and advocacy.

Volunteers do not give of themselves to seek extrinsic rewards; nevertheless, it’s important that each and every one knows how valued he or she is to our organization. I am grateful to be part of this passionate community, and equally appreciative of the extraordinary lengths to which our volunteers have gone to make a positive difference in the lives of Canadians with ALS. Thank you to all of ALS Canada’s volunteers for choosing to give your time and talents in such a meaningful way.

Each day during National Volunteer Week, we are posting the story of a different ALS Canada volunteer here on our blog. Each person profiled has different reasons for volunteering, skills they bring to the table, and tasks they are responsible for, but – like all our volunteers — what they share in common is a passion for helping to make ALS a treatable, not terminal disease.

Posted in: Stories, Volunteers