A caseworker at heart
Pascal Marcil was a street worker for close to 12 years. Despite losing his sight at the age of 30, he nevertheless continued on as a caseworker. Unfortunately, though, chronic health problems forced him to stop working about four years ago. Since then, Mr. Marcil volunteers to facilitate two support groups per semester for the CNIB Foundation in Quebec (fall, winter and spring).
There is no way that his sight loss or health problems will prevent this 42-year-old man from helping others.
Living with vision loss, he himself benefited in the past from CNIB Quebec’s support groups, technological advice and audio books. And he wanted to give back.
The strength of the group
Each support group facilitated by Pascal lasts a total of 8 weeks. Every Tuesday or Wednesday, participants take part in a 1 hour teleconference, during which they form a small family and find comfort and support as well as exchange on a various of subjects without ever passing judgment.
“The groups have a major impact! Some people have lost all hope and taking part in a support group rekindles their flame. The group becomes an additional source of strength to get through it,” describes he who himself benefited from support groups in the past.
“Our vision loss is easier to accept when we have the opportunity to discuss with other people who had to overcome the same challenges,” confirms a woman who participates in Pascal Marcil’s group. In addition to realizing that they are not alone, they find hope in other people’s positive experiences. They also find encouragement among themselves and take advantage of the opportunity to share insights and resources to make their daily lives easier and become more autonomous.
The groups connect people who are blind or partially sighted throughout the province, who would probably have never gotten acquainted otherwise. “I know that for some participants, this call is their only social moment of the week. Moreover, several of them make new friends with whom they can continue to exchange in between sessions,” as points out Mr. Marcil with respect to the impact of the support groups session after session.
“The group motivated me during the day and enabled me to find resources and value life while overcoming my disability,” summarizes another participant.
An inspiring facilitator
Participants are often surprised to see Pascal Marcil facilitate support groups and use a teleconferencing system seeing as he is himself blind. He does not hesitate to remind them that “it is not because you have a disability that you cannot handle tasks, assume responsibilities and be useful.”
“Pascal is always ready to help, he is passionate about what he does and he offers good ideas on how to improve our client services. Given his experience as a caseworker, he is able to provide additional support to those who are going though especially hard times,” claims Najla Noori, who is responsible for psychosocial services for CNIB Quebec. “Participants adore him! He is very popular and in great demand as a facilitator.”
Pascal is recognized for his sense of humour. With his groups, he always reserves some time to discuss less serious subjects and subjects other than vision loss. “They need to talk about other things, they need to have discussions like anyone else. That gives them the opportunity to take their minds off things,” he explains. Also, he often goes with what is happening around him. For example, the day of the big snowstorm, he encouraged participants to tell a funny anecdote or describe a difficult situation experienced in winter.
Always wanting to do more
In addition to the support groups that he facilitates during the year, last December 25, as he has done at Christmas for a few years now, Mr. Marcil called more isolated blind people to help them have a good time.
“Most of them are alone at Christmas, and it’s something that’s important for me to do. On the 24th or 25th, whether I have visitors at home or am visiting my family-in-law, I isolate myself in a room for a few hours to facilitate this group. My loved ones are used to it for it has become a tradition,” states he for whom being there for others goes without saying.
Pascal has also proposed setting up a thematic support group on reading or the world of perfumes to enable participants to exchange on passions they have in common.
Benefits for him too
He admits that it’s good for his esteem when he takes stock of all of the positive vibes around him and notices that the participants appreciate it. “I also learn a lot from their experiences,” says he who has gone through his own rough moments at times.
“We have very meaningful exchanges and our participants come from very diversified backgrounds. Everyone has something to contribute to the group,” concludes the facilitator.