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One of the concerns in the treatment and support of persons with severe disability from brain injury is ongoing rehabilitation and monitoring. There are rehabilitation gains that can be made even many years post-injury but the availability of publicly funded rehabilitation services for the longer-term patient is understandably limited or non-existent. Families routinely express a desire to “not give up” on the potential for recovery of loved ones. ARBI provides a bridge in this regard.

Using their unique model of volunteer service delivery, ARBI is an organization that provides rehabilitation and support to individuals and families affected by brain injury in the southern Alberta area. Their model has been and will be further replicated in other jurisdictions in and out of our province. It is a tribute to the dedication of the ARBI board, staff, and volunteers that this organization has not only survived but has flourished through some very challenging times in terms of health care re-organization and community agency funding here in Alberta.

ARBI provides an atmosphere that is caring and client-oriented. The staff and volunteers have a level of optimism, enthusiasm and passion that is not often found elsewhere.

Since its inception 36 years ago, ARBI has been a role-model in the community for its innovative approach to helping people. By engaging citizens as partners in the delivery of health care, they have found a way to provide intensive rehabilitation in a cost-effective manner. The ARBI model pairs volunteers with professional therapists to deliver rehab programs. In 2013, volunteers contributed 10,000 hours at ARBI.

Many of ARBI’s volunteers are young students; ARBI builds on their leadership potential and thirst for knowledge. These young people inspire ARBI’s clients with their caring participation and likewise the volunteers are inspired by the clients’ successes. It is the ultimate win-win partnership!

Volunteers at ARBI help with on-site rehab programs, group therapy, community outings and an arts program. There are also a few volunteers/practicum students that do office work and research with the therapists.

Most, although not all, of the volunteers are university students. They are typically studying for various medical degrees.

For instance, I spend four mornings a week at ARBI, and I have four separate volunteers. One is a 26-year-old woman on track for a Master’s degree in occupational therapy, another is a 21-year-old student at the U of C, who hopes to become an MD, another is a 24-year-old male student who is aiming for a career in neurology, and the last (but not least) is a 47-year-old woman, a retired oil and gas budget analyst, with a serious and sincere interest in physical therapy. This mix is, I believe, typical.

ARBI is a unique community rehabilitation resource in southern Alberta. Through a very supportive and nurturing environment, ARBI succeeds in enhancing the daily lives of many individuals with brain injury and stroke. ARBI’s commitment to their client’s well-being is truly exceptional and their positive attitude is contagious.

In the almost three years since our son’s accident and the countless hours spent in hospitals, rehabilitation centres and residential group homes, we have crossed paths with all manner of individuals: some who should not be in the health sector at all, some who are simply doing a job and others who are genuine in their concern for individuals with a brain injury.

And then there are individuals like those we have had the great fortune to know at ARBI. People whose vocation it is to care.

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