The completion of the 2016 Wounded Warriors Run B.C. was an emotional day for team members and their supporters.

The completion of the 2016 Wounded Warriors Run B.C. was an emotional day for team members and their supporters.

Reporters’ notebooks: West Shore spirit alive and well in 2016

Reporter Katherine Engqvist recaps her favourite stories from a memorable 2016

While the West Shore is made up of five very unique municipalities, the majority of residents share one character trait and that’s an unwavering desire to help others. Whether it’s through volunteer activities, a career dedicated to furthering the community or one focused on helping others, West Shore residents always seem to come through for each other. When thinking of my favourite stories from 2016, there’s two that come to mind for just those reasons.

The first story that often finds its way back into my thoughts happened back in February, and it was a bit of a fluke that I actually covered it, as I don’t usually work on Sundays. But I happened to be in the office that day and rushed off to what was then Saunders Subaru in Colwood to watch the Wounded Warrior B.C. runners make their way up Island Highway near the end of their more than 600-kilometre journey.

The point of this gruelling task was to raise funds and awareness for Wounded Warriors Canada, a non-profit charity that helps veterans injured in their service. The organization focuses on mental health and the staggering impact of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as operational stress injuries (OSI).

I am a firm believer in shining a spotlight on mental health and how our society portrays PTSD and OSI. If we don’t work to get rid of the stigma that’s been created, more people will continue to suffer in silence and even take their own lives.

Allan Kobayashi, one of the run’s co-founders, shared his own experience in dealing with PTSD. It was something he said he wouldn’t have felt comfortable talking about not that long ago. His courage inspired others to sit a little taller in their chairs as if an invisible weight was being lifted.

He was also quick to note that PTSD is not defined by your title and pointed to the firefighters, other first responders and police officers in the room. He acknowledged the need to address its impact on not just the men and women in service to their country, but also those that serve their communities everyday.

As Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon said during the event, “eventually, we all must stop and deal with all the things we’ve hidden away.”

The second story that often finds its way back into my thoughts is actually a series of articles I worked on this past fall. At the end of October I was given the opportunity to travel to Haiti with a group representing the Westshore Sunrise Rotary Club. The club, along with the City of Langford, has been supporting two orphanages in the Port-au-Prince area. While a team was already planning to make the trip to suss out the viability of purchasing the land the Divine Hands Orphanage now sits on, after Hurricane Matthew the point of the trip shifted a bit to include immediate relief and supplies.

I jumped at the opportunity to go and it was a trip that left a lasting impression.

Living in Canada, it’s often easy to forget how truly fortunate we are. While there are a number of problems, such as homelessness and drug addiction, that still need to be addressed in our communities, the level of poverty that exists overseas really makes you re-evaluate what you need in your life to be happy. That’s something I try to carry with me, especially when heading into a season that can be notoriously materialistic.

With a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in at night, it’s hard to imagine what some of those children have been through. Now, the local Rotary club is gearing up for the biggest fundraising campaign it has ever embarked on, with the goal of raising enough funds to buy the property on which Divine Hands operates. It will not only give them a level of stability they have never had, it will free up other resources for helping those incredible children.

I can’t wait to see what this small group of volunteers – with the continued support of West Shore residents – will continue to accomplish overseas and at home.

The spirit of the West Shore is something you truly don’t understand until you’ve witnessed it firsthand.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com