Sarah Gibson joined the BC CRN in September of 2022. She has a light, upbeat energy to her and laughs readily when the interview is interrupted by technical glitches. When asked about her life and work experiences, and what led to her involvement with BC CRN, she simply states that she seems to naturally move into work and volunteering opportunities with the various stages of her life, gravitating to ‘appropriate’ avenues of service that parallel each chapter.
Sarah first arrived in Canada in 1974, making the adventurous move from Scotland to Toronto all by herself. Her first job in Canada was in a computer programming department where she met her (now late) husband who had immigrated from England some years earlier. After marrying, Sarah chose to be a stay-at-home mom to raise their three boys. When the children got to be a little older, she found a volunteer position teaching English to other immigrants. Over the next few years, Sarah continued to teach English classes and volunteered with other community organizations until 1989 when the family made the decision to move to BC to enjoy better weather. Settling in Surrey, Sarah gravitated to local volunteer work, serving as a lay councilor and a member of several boards for some time.
In 2006 the family adopted a teenage girl from foster care who had developmental challenges due to FAS. She was deeply disappointed with the lack of services and activities for her daughter so she started a society for young adults with FAS, creating two branches: one for girls, and one for boys. The society was set up to provide activities and social connection for people 19 years and over, and was made up of typical young adults as well as those with FAS, designed to create a peer mentoring environment. She found over the five years of coordinating the society that a significant number of group participants came from foster care and identified as indigenous. In addition, many of the first-time male attendees were new to the city and came to the group with their support workers. Some of the people came from as far away as the Northwest Territories because there were no comparable services for them in their home communities.
Sarah’s focus for her first year as one of the Mentors of the Vancouver Coastal region (North Shore, Sea to Sky and Bella Coola), is to build a strong system of collaboration and communication by supporting each Coordinator and linking them together as a stronger, more cohesive team, using each other’s talents to build momentum together rather than independently. She is also leaning in and learning from the experienced, seasoned Coordinators, while supporting all of them as strongly as possible. Under her umbrella are CRNs in Bella Coola, Squamish, Bowen Island and the North Shore, with a possible new CRN being started in the Whistler/Pemberton area. One of the fastest growing senior communities is in the Squamish location, where recent events have seen entirely new audiences who had never heard the BC CRN’s presentations before.
She connects with her four Coordinators on a monthly basis, and more often when there are events happening, arranging to be at events in person as often as possible. All the Coastal CRNs participate regularly at community events where they give out BC CRN information to crowds gathered, spreading awareness for the prevention of adult abuse, neglect and self-neglect. When asked for a sneak peek of their WEAAD plans, Sarah did not give away any specifics but confirmed that quite a few senior centers and other organizations tied in with older and vulnerable adults are set to host events where the CRNs will have a table for representation.