Looking back — to move forward

It seems like just a few years ago all the organizations who worked with technology were thinking about what would happen when the clock turned to midnight and we entered 2000. Would the technology of 1999 still function? I was part of one of those health organizations that spent many hours and financial resources trying to put processes into place to be prepared. Was that good planning or waste of time?

We go to the optometrist with the hope that we are told we have 20/20 vision. Many of us aren’t able to achieve that even with glasses. However, we are very grateful for what correction is possible.

Those two things came to mind as I am preparing to go from 2019 to 2020. It is about looking back and taking time to reflect and appreciate all that we accomplished this past year, in our personal lives and in our organization. Once again, Threads of Life has seen significant changes. We welcomed three new staff members, many new community partners, sponsors, and most importantly, family members found a place of resources and caring. We review our strategic plan annually in order to build an operational plan. Why plan? We know that many family members in Canada who are living with life-altering injury, occupational disease, or a death related to the workplace are not aware of Threads of Life. We all need to work together to continue to share that Threads of Life exists to provide family members support and encouragement. The organization provides much more: it provides hope. Hope that when we all work together we see a significant decrease in injuries, illnesses, and deaths.

Perhaps this is not just a time to pause and reflect on 2019. Think of the growth in the past decade, or in the years since 2003 when Threads of Life was founded, and give thanks for where this organization is today. First, and most importantly, many new family members have found Threads of Life. Family members are the only reason we started Threads of Life and they are the heart of this organization. What started as a couple of family members listening and crying together has grown year after year. And yet, we still have a long way to go.

When a tragedy happens at work, we as family members find ourselves in an unknown world of not just grief, but the investigative and legal systems. Having the opportunity to share experiences with other family members helps us to understand that additional burden of complicated grief. I have been privileged to witness so many family members heal enough to take training to become a volunteer with Threads of Life. Volunteer Family Guides provide that opportunity for a new family member to be listened to, and the VFG often becomes a companion on the longer journey of healing. Family members who share their personal story at schools, workplaces, and health and safety events, hear repeatedly how they make a difference to the culture of workplace safety. Others volunteer at tradeshows, third party fundraising events and Steps for Life – Walking for Families of Workplace Tragedy.

My focus as we prepare for the next decade is how we grow the awareness that Threads of Life exists. Threads of Life is here for family members, educators, employers and all involved in workplace health and safety. It may appear to be a huge undertaking. After all, we have a limited number of staff, trained volunteers, and resources. But as Margaret Mead shares “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

We may be still a small group, but you will have to search long and hard to find more dedicated volunteers and staff. We know that if we work with government organizations, health and safety organizations, employers and educators, the messages to family members, and the lessons about prevention of workplace tragedies will be heard. Just like when the clock turned into January 1, 2000, we have to prepare for the future. Just as we may never reach perfect 20/20 vision, but we continue to strive to be as close as possible.

Our work this coming year will focus to ensure that every Canadian becomes aware of the programs and services of Threads of Life. What is your role in the next decade to support and promote that goal? What is your image of this organization come 2030?

Shirley Hickman