Celina Manson wants to share her perspectives on volunteering, on being a bridge builder and the responsibility of being a part of a community. Her reminiscences reflect the strong influence of First Nations culture and lessons learned from her parents.
“I am a mother, grandmother and great grandmother,” said Celina. “I grew up on the coast and now my neighborhood happens to be Kelowna, but I consider myself a citizen of British Columbia.
“My community and my people are my home.
“I was a full time caregiver for my parents for 17 years.
“It was a journey and a gift. My dad was one of the last Gitxsanimax̱ speaking people.
“My mom was one of a family of 12. My parents lived through many challenges and in spite of all of them my family has thrived.
“We lived the principles of the long-house. I watched my mom and dad use their strengths to help their community,” continued Celina.
“Hospitality and healing were my mom’s strengths. Innovation, hard work, troubleshooting, bringing people together and understanding needs were my dad’s strengths.”
“My dad told me, ‘I don’t want you to be afraid of dying – it is a lot like being born. You are going from one period of time to another. What matters is what you do in between.
“Make a difference in your home with your family, in your neighborhood, in your community, not just with First Nations or with non-first nations people –with everyone.’
“They lived this,” Celina reflected proudly.
“When children are born in the Gitxsan culture, they are watched closely to identify certain strengths, gifts and abilities. At age 3, they are matched up with other community members who also display those qualities to help them develop and use those skills.
“I was held accountable by my parents. If I did not serve when an opportunity appeared, I was called on it. That is the only thing I was disciplined for.”
This tradition identified Celina with the strength of being a bridge builder, a person who can listen to everyone and to build the bridge of understanding.
She uses this strength and her interest in health and education to inform her volunteering choices.
As a life-long volunteer, she has volunteered with many groups – the Kelowna Gospel Mission, CNIB, education boards, health boards, Native Police Liaison Committee, the United Way, and Ki-Low-Na-Friendship Society.
“In my culture you are never too old to contribute,” explained Celina.
“If all I have left is my voice then that is what I use to help others and get to know them.
“When I look at people who face great physical challenges and they continue, I am inspired.
“I am also inspired by people who get up with enthusiasm everyday and give to others. “Some of the things I have noted in my own walk as I get older is that as a person gets older our flexibility changes – just like our physical self – we can bend over and stretch, but not as far.”
Celina offers her own insights for older volunteers.
“We have our own self qualifiers about what our own capacity is to make a difference. We think that if we can’t do things as well as we used to as fast – then we are not useful.
“This is not true. We always have something to contribute. It just changes. Our fight is often against ourselves as much as anything else. We are all uniquely gifted. It makes a powerful difference when we can weave a portion of ourselves into the blanket that covers our community.”
Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources.