The one thing that stands out for Deb Masso as a volunteer in Port Alberni is the idea of people reaching out.
When she was first approached earlier this year by Sarah Thomas, president of the Port Alberni Folkfest Multicultural Society, about volunteering with the Canada Day events, she stepped up to the plate.
“I said, ‘Sure, I’m always up for a challenge,’” Masso said. “I loved how she reached out and allowed me to put my foot in another area and I like doing that.”
As a full-time Nuu-chah-nulth education worker at Alberni Elementary School, Masso has a busy life, but makes it a priority to commit to her volunteer roles. Now, coordination of entertainment for Canada Day is just one of several things she does outside of her paid work.
Years ago she became involved in the Alberni Valley Restorative Justice Society through a personal connection. She completed her training but did not fulfill the required hours.
“Back then restorative justice wasn’t ‘out there’ like it is now,” she said. “Last fall I did some more intensive training and then co-facilitated my first circle.”
As a people person, Masso said the work is rewarding.
“It’s about being and living in a healthy community,” she said.
“I get to work with victims and offenders together in the community to make it a better place to live. We all make mistakes, but this brings a much gentler way for offenders to go about making positive changes in their lives.”
Part of Masso’s love of working with people involves sharing her First Nation culture. She is currently doing that at the United Church in order to help build an understanding of Aboriginal Peoples. The first event is one taking place for Earth Day celebrations.
“This is fairly new,” she said. “The church has been reaching out to build bridges as a result of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings.”
The event will take place on Sunday, April 24 at the church and include First Nation drumming and storytelling. Masso wrote a story specifically for this day, based around the Nuu-chah-nulth concept of “Hishuk Ish Tsawalk”, or “We Are All One”. It is a snapshot of life, culture, spirituality and respect for the environment.
Following that, Masso will assist the church with a larger, week-long celebration in July with three hours each morning of First Nations foods, crafts and culture.
As a skilled organizer, joining the committee for Canada Day was a natural.
“I have always attended as a spectator,” she said. “I always go to the parade and follow it to Glenwood to feast on some of the food booths and watch the entertainment on stage.”
This year, Masso is following up with entertainment from the past, but is open to all new acts. She hopes to hear from local talent who would be interested in performing on July 1.
When she is not busy with work and volunteering, Masso also helps out at a retail shop owned by her partner.
“I have a full life, but I get a sense of fulfillment in doing these things,” she said. “If I didn’t, I don’t think I would want to but I do get a sense of satisfaction. This is my community and I am participating in it.”