Annemarie Travers is someone who truly embodies the spirit of volunteering. Despite being an avid long-distance walker, a grandmother to three young grandchildren and having a passion for cooking and knitting, she still finds time to give back to her community by volunteering with the Family Caregivers of British Columbia and for the past six years as a support group facilitator for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.
There are an estimated 85,800 people currently living with dementia in B.C., which is expected to increase to an estimated 133,700 by 2030. However, while the number of people living with dementia is on the rise, the number of volunteers isn't keeping up with the demand for support. Volunteers like Annemarie Travers play such an important role in providing vital support to individuals and families affected by dementia.
Annemarie with her husband Geoff has walked routes – ranging from 200 to 900 km – all around the world. One of their most treasured routes was their version of the Camino Trail, which they walked to raise funds and awareness of dementia. Their walk began on World Alzheimer's Day 2018 in Lodève, France just over 800 km to Puente la Reina, Spain, with Geoff continuing another 700 km towards Santiago de Compostela. They shared their journey through a blog called Camino for Alzheimer's Awareness, where they drew a connection between their journey and the experience of dementia – notably the language barriers they encountered and the feeling of disorientation. It took a year of planning, and in the end, they raised around $13,000. Following their adventure, they were invited to share their story at the Society’s Breakfast to Remember event in 2019.
While spreading awareness and raising funds with her Geoff, Annemarie was already volunteering with the Society having begun shortly after her sister-in-law was diagnosed with dementia a couple years before. She facilitated programs, helped run community outreach booths and volunteered with the Breakfast to Remember. Annemarie continued to actively support the Society while in-person services weren’t available due to COVID-19, becoming a virtual Minds in Motion® facilitator. Although virtual programming was a different experience, Annemarie enjoyed it because it gave her more flexibility, and she could facilitate a group from anywhere.
Annemarie's background in leadership and facilitation made her transition facilitating support groups a natural fit. Prior to her retirement, she was the director of Learning Development for the Ministry of Children and Family Development; her experience facilitating and being part of a leadership role helped her excel with the Society.
Annemarie's dedication to the Society and its mission is evident in everything she does. She understands the value of being part of a support group and is motivated by the sense of commitment to the people who are in her groups. "It gives me a sense of purpose, and it helps me stay grounded and stay clear about what my sister-in-law is experiencing," she said. "It's just the sense of purpose and contribution to society in a way that I feel that I have some strength to offer."
Annemarie prides herself on having a purpose and has even recruited a friend to volunteer with the Society, valuing the opportunity to grow the number of volunteers from her network. Annemarie has some words for those on the fence about volunteering: "The organization has a range of roles, you may feel nervous or feel that there isn't a spot for you, but staff will figure out the perfect role for you," she said. "You never get left on the hook as a volunteer, if you ever feel over your head, there's a staff person who will help out."
Annemarie Travers is a true inspiration to all those who aspire to make a difference in their community. Her dedication to the Alzheimer Society of B.C. and its mission is commendable, and her willingness to go above and beyond to raise awareness for the disease is truly inspiring. It is volunteers like Annemarie who help make a significant difference in the lives of those affected by dementia.
If you are interested in joining the wonderful team of volunteers at the Alzheimer Society of B.C., you can find volunteer opportunities here.