Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week!
Today’s blog is the third and final in our week-long series celebrating #NationalVolunteerWeek. We are excited to be sharing Olga’s story with you, as she played an integral part in diversifying and expanding Avalon in wonderful new ways. Keep reading to learn more about Olga, her history with Avalon, and what it means to her to be able to start a Russian-speaking AA meeting for herself and her community!
Olga began her time with Avalon in 2003 in West Vancouver. Then, in 2004, she was at a recovery house and started attending meetings at Avalon Women’s Centre Vancouver every Saturday. Throughout the years, she has been volunteering at Avalon chairing meetings. She was also responsible for organizing a meeting on Sundays when she was living in North Vancouver several years ago because at that time Avalon only held meetings from Monday to Friday in North and West Vancouver. Clearly, Olga has been a passionate and innovative Woman of Avalon and volunteer over the years!
When Olga first joined recovery groups, she was the only Russian, and she found it very difficult to relate to others. In 2008 she met another Russian woman through Avalon, and over the years there have been a few more to join Avalon.
Seeing a small community of Russian women growing within Avalon, Olga decided to initiate a Russian-speaking AA meeting. While she started with only five members, she hopes the meeting will grow and that other Russian women in Vancouver who are struggling with addiction will find them. In Olga’s words:
“It means the world to me to have this group in Russian language. Some of us don’t have very good English and it’s important that they will understand how the program works. I’ve been travelling a lot during the past seven years and lots of different countries they have meetings in Russian and other languages… now Vancouver will have one and it feels great that I am the cause of it!!!”
Diversity at Avalon
Avalon recognizes that Canada, including Vancouver, White Rock and the North Shore where our Centres are located, is a mosaic of different cultural and ethnic identities. When Olga brought her idea to start a Russian-speaking meeting to Avalon staff, we were delighted to be able to support the creation of a safe space for their community and culture to be shared. Michelle Swan, Centre Manager of Avalon Women’s Centre Vancouver said:
“It’s very exciting when the healing and strength of women in recovery reaches out to the community. Love is the answer and love is spoken in many languages at Avalon.”
Our 12-step meetings encourage honesty, openness, and communication – and we hope to remove any barriers that could prevent women from being able to achieve those things, including having to speak in an unfamiliar language.
For women who have migrated to British Columbia from other parts of the country or world, we are inspired by your strength and perseverance. Migration often involves the loss of everyday familiarities, including language, values, and support networks. Therefore, it is important to us that Avalon provides services and resources that allow immigrant women to feel welcome, safe, and heard in their communities, and to enable their social and cultural integration into society. For women struggling to relate to others, like Olga first did, and who feel linguistic and cultural barriers are preventing them from getting the help they need in recovery – we are here to support you and to help you develop safe 12-step peer support groups where you express your cultural or ethnic identity freely.
In summary, Avalon is thrilled to be diversifying our services to include Peer Support groups held in other languages, and we’re grateful to Olga for bringing this idea forward and sharing her story with us today! If you’re in the Lower Mainland and are interested in learning about how to create a 12-step recovery-based Peer Support group in your language or ethnicity, we strongly encourage you to reach out by sending us a message on any social media platform or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re looking to join this Russian-speaking AA meeting yourself, held on Saturdays at 2:00 pm via Zoom, click here to register. Thank you for reading and we will be back next week with a brand–new blog for you to enjoy!