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LETTER: Remembering enriching work

'If ever you get a chance to work with the physically handicapped, do it. It will enrich your outlook on life' says reader Albert Wierenga
2021-08-23 writing STOCK PEXELS

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One night and a lifelong interest.

We are or become the sum of our experiences. In 1971, I was enrolled in Kinesiology (my major, with a Biology minor) at Waterloo University and doing a Co-op term (a sure way to pay my own way to earn a degree). They had hired me as a fitness and health instructor at the Addiction Research Foundation in Toronto. It was a pleasure to work there as a member of a large, multi talented team trying to aid in the rehabilitation of alcoholics, and heroin addicts. The setting and process provided quite the eye opener learning about that addicted segment of society and their chances for success in that program, as well as its significant rate of failures (and the reasons why).

Sometime in those four months, a colleague, who practised occupational therapy, asked me to join her for an evening at a Toronto hospital working with amputees. I liked her a lot; hence the decision to join her for that evening’s visit appeared pleasant enough and seen to be a good investment. Little did I know the long-term impact that evening would have. Being a kinesiology student, physicality and having a well-working body has always been highly valued. Therefore, to then work with mostly young, courageous people who had lost a limb or were born that way was a direct and deeply emotional hit. The three hours spent working with that high-on-life group flew by and felt like a very short time.

I did not get the girl, so to speak, but as a direct result of that one evening’s exposure became a lifelong supporter of War Amps and their causes.

If ever you get a chance to work with the physically handicapped, do it. It will enrich your outlook on life. It is also emotionally deeply satisfying to watch and participate in the progress people can make. I am grateful for having experienced this firsthand with both my brother after his near-fatal accident in 1979 coming out of a long coma as well as with my mother after her first paralyzing stroke in 2004.

Live life well folks.

Albert Wierenga, Bradford

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