“Many of our clients have to be so focused on their health, on medical treatments. They live in survival mode,” says Dianne Simpson, the Dr. Peter Centre’s Day Health Coordinator.
“Our clients also lack the financial resources to participate in recreational activities that some of us take for granted like going to the PNE, the pitch and putt or even just the movies," says Dianne. “And frankly, it’s not just a question of money. In Vancouver, there are so many recreational opportunities right in the city that are free, like all the beaches and the parks, but when I talk to people they tell me that they haven’t been in years because they just don’t feel comfortable going on their own as they feel like they don’t belong. The result is that our clients can often feel isolated within their own community.”
A Sense of Self
Professional staff and trained volunteers take groups of participants for weekly out trips throughout the year. The destinations and activities are varied and include go-carting, bowling, pitch-and-putt, Grouse Mountain, Lighthouse Park, art gallery tours, the Vancouver Aquarium, days at the beach, coffee shop visits and picnics in the park.
These activities offer a chance for people who are too often defined by their illness or life disadvantages to step out of these roles and participate in a positive social experience. This helps our clients to feel connected to the community around them, giving them the confidence to try new activities, thereby building self-esteem.
The Value of Inclusion
Recreation therapy encourages community re-integration and increases engagement in HIV treatment. “It takes folks to a place where they can assert themselves and participate in a meaningful way,” explains Dianne. “It’s amazing the kind of discoveries, the social interaction and development, even the problem solving that can happen. It’s a way of bringing people together and a way of being valued.”
Participation in recreational activities with a diverse group of people helps to reinforce important life skills, such as positive conflict resolution in social situations, and enables people to rediscover themselves and their capabilities. Recreation therapy also encourages more consistent engagement in HIV treatment at the Dr. Peter Centre. HIV treatment is now globally accepted as a key HIV prevention tool. An HIV positive person on their prescribed medication can live a near normal lifespan, and is 96% less likely to transmit the disease.