Brief History of Compassionate Ottawa
Almost three years ago, four dozen representatives of a wide cross-section of community and healthcare provider organizations met to explore the idea of Ottawa becoming a compassionate community for palliative care—a grass roots community-based model of care for those facing life threatening illnesses.
There was a broad consensus that there would be much to gain for the city to work towards this. To help us become established, The OutCare Foundation, a charitable organization that raises funds for palliative care, agreed to be our host.
By March 2017, the feedback from health, social service and community organizations was very clear—there was a real need for what was being proposed and all organizations expressed a desire to be part of the venture.
At the same time, research was undertaken on compassionate community initiatives elsewhere. While the movement was at an early stage of development in Canada, other counties, such as the United Kingdom, had well-developed programs through the residential hospice movement.
By April 2017, a vision, mission and initial priorities had been drafted by the volunteer group. A second community meeting gave it broad support. The Ottawa Community Foundation (OCF) provided a grant to assist with some start-up expenses, and an anonymous donor came forward to provide additional funds to allow the hiring of a part-time staff member to support the work of the volunteers.
Over the course of the next two years, the volunteer group developed programs with workplaces, schools and faith communities and workshops in advance care planning. A second OCF grant assisted with the school project and additional funding supported part-time staff who helped the volunteers in their work.
Our Vision for Ottawa
A compassionate Ottawa supports and empowers individuals, their families and their communities throughout life to live well and to die and grieve well.
Attributes of our Vision for Ottawa are:
By ‘Ottawa’ we mean the rich diversity of our city as well as its rural and urban settings
By ‘supports’ we mean access to services when needed which are equitable and of high quality
By ‘empower’ we mean the ability of everyone to take action to help their family, friends and neighbours and make a difference in their communities
By ‘throughout life’ we mean that we are open to discussing death and dying as a normal part of life and that we prepare properly for it
The Mission of Compassionate Ottawa
Compassionate Ottawa is a movement that builds the capacity of the citizens of Ottawa to be more capable and confident of helping themselves, their families and their communities to live well and to die and grieve well.
Change Attitudes and Behaviour
- Change the way we think about dying and death so that we can be better prepared and thus improve our quality of life.
- Encourage individuals to prepare their end of life wishes and communicate these to their families and others.
Educate, Support and Empower
- Engage Ottawa’s many and diverse communities and provide support as they develop their own approaches to becoming compassionate communities.
- Develop a shared understanding in the broad community of the need to work together to help Ottawa become a compassionate community.
Engage Community Partners
- Work with partner organizations with common interests to increase the impact of our collective work.
- Engage with health providers, social organizations and other community partners to enhance connections and reduce isolation.
We recognize that organizations and individuals have been active in this field for many years. Our aim is not to duplicate these resources but to complement and to build upon them to create more capacity in the community.
Compassionate Ottawa is a volunteer-driven organization with a lean structure. For the first two years, our oversight activities were carried out by a small five-person Steering Committee led by two co-chairs.
As the initiative grew, the need to strengthen the governance and formalize became necessary. In early 2019, Compassionate Ottawa became a legal not-for-profit organization, with a nine-person board of directors.
The work of the organization is carried out by our volunteer group, the Advisory Council, assisted by two part-time staff. The Advisory Council consists of individuals who have agreed to undertake specific tasks, based on the vision, mission, and priorities of the organization. They meet two to three times a year to review program and organizational priorities, to explore new initiatives and to engage in learning forums to build our knowledge base.
Financial support from the Ottawa Community Foundation, an anonymous donor, and others have allowed us to engage our two part-time staff to support the work of the volunteers. Compassionate Ottawa continues to benefit from the assistance provided by the OutCare Foundation.
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