By | Published On: January 10, 2023 | Categories: General News | 4 min read |

We are so honored to be recognized by the Public Health Palliative Care International. Here is what they said about Compassionate Ottawa in their December 2022 Newsletter.

Jim Nininger, Co-Founder of Compassionate Ottawa

Compassionate Ottawa is a community based, volunteer driven organization with a dual aim: to change the way we think about living well, dying, death, grief and caregiving; and to strengthen the capacity of people to care for each other in times of serious illness and loss.

Three fundamentals guide our work: community development and capacity building, end-of-life as a public health issue, and a social model of caring. As well, we have established a core set of values, which includes equity, diversity and inclusion. We are an independent organization and work in collaboration with other community groups, social service agencies and health care providers.

In the early period—spring 2017—our oversight was small—a four-person steering committee supported by a growing group of volunteers. As we grew, we needed to create a not-for-profit structure with a board of directors. Our volunteer group, which now numbers 80, became our advisory group and meets periodically to help set our priorities. As background, Ottawa, the capital of Canada, has a population of one million and is a bilingual community.

Our first program was advance care planning, which includes having difficult conversations about end-of-life issues. This was followed by work in grief and bereavement. Both of these programs have teams of trained volunteers who offer workshops in French and English, both directly to the public and through collaboration with our partner organizations. In terms of the Compassionate City Charter, we have launched initiatives in workplaces, schools and faith communities.

One of our newer programs is “Conversations with Leaders.” These Conversations invite the public to take part in a discussion between a Compassionate Ottawa volunteer and a recognized leader on the subject of compassion. Leaders include local, national and international experts. All previous Conversations can be accessed on our website under the ‘Resources’ tab. Announcements of future events are located under the ‘Events’ tab. Join our mailing list to receive early notification of upcoming events.

Recently, we launched a needs assessment that will advise us on how we can best reach out to communities that are currently not well served so that our work can be truly reflective of Ottawa’s tremendous diversity.

Compassionate Ottawa is pleased to have sponsored two significant projects.

The first project titled “Let’s Talk About Later Life” developed and evaluated three community education resources to raise awareness of end-of-life issues and to prompt people to prepare for giving and getting help in later life:

  1. A collection of short digital stories that shares the experiences of 7 story tellers describing giving and receiving help in later life.
  2. Book Chat resources based on the book “Talking about Death Won’t Kill You”, by Dr. Kathy Kortes Miller, which includes host and participant guides.
  3. A short video on The Compassionate Ottawa story, which is augmented with a companion Handbook and Discussion Guide.

These resources can be accessed on both the PHPCI and Compassionate Ottawa websites and are available in English and French.

The second project, HELP (Healthy End of Life Project) Ottawa, is a community-based, participatory action research initiative. The goal of the project is to help people live at home or in the community as long as possible. It is being implemented in four sites in Ottawa: two faith communities and two community health centres. The HELP Ottawa research team works with each site in helping them determine their needs. Once this is completed, the sites work with Compassionate Ottawa volunteers, and the research team, to design and implement programs to meet their needs.

One of the research goals is to disseminate the findings of the project to support other communities wishing to implement a public health approach to end-of-life care. It is anticipated that this material will be available in the later part of 2023.

HELP Ottawa is based on a similar project developed by the Public Health Palliative Care Unit at Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Funding for the HELP Ottawa project has been provided by a private foundation and the research is being carried out by the School of Social Work at Carleton University.

We are pleased with the progress Compassionate Ottawa has made in a relatively short period of time. The need for the work we are doing is even greater today than it was when we started in 2017. The pandemic brought to light the serious challenges that all communities have with issues of dying, death, loss, grief and caregiving. We are redoubling our commitment to enable our citizens to live as well as they can for as long as they can with supports from the community to make this possible.

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About the Author: Melissa Proulx

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