Volunteers make a difference for those with arthritis questions, and Oneida Baxhia is a volunteer who has been on both sides. She knows firsthand the value of the Arthritis Society’s Arthritis Line.
“A lot of the callers are grateful for it,” she says. “They call in because they’re lost and don’t know where to turn.”
Baxhia, 26, knows that feeling of gratitude well and is easily able to imagine herself in the callers’ shoes. Her own first experience with the Arthritis Line was when she was looking for information and resources to help her mother and her extended family.
“A lot of my family members have arthritis, and I didn’t know where to start to get that information so I turned to the Arthritis Society,” she explains.
The Arthritis Line is a toll-free telephone and email information support service, run by trained volunteers who can answer questions about arthritis, how to manage the disease and where to access arthritis-related resources. It welcomes calls from people living with arthritis, family members, friends or caregivers to people with arthritis. The service is available nationally in both English and French.
Baxhia is one of 17 trained volunteers who staff the telephone and email service. She does one shift a week.
“It was a great way for me to get involved with the Arthritis Society and to help others,” she shares. “I like this kind of work because I get to be on the frontlines and see the impact.”
One caller sticks out in her mind, as she reminded Baxhia of her grandmother. Before calling the Arthritis Line, she’d already called many other numbers, looking for information about programs that might help her modify her home to manage better with her arthritis and stay in the home as long as possible.
“I think I stayed on the phone with her my entire shift because I wanted to make sure she had help,” she says. “I made sure to get her the information she was looking for.
“That felt special to me, because I felt like we were making a difference.”
The Arthritis Line users also think it’s pretty special, “Wow! Thank you for answering so quickly. You have given me what I need,” writes one user.
From April to the beginning of September of this year, nearly 1,200 people have reached out to the Arthritis Line.
“The Arthritis Society wouldn’t be able to do what we do without our amazing volunteers. From answering questions from anxious callers through the Arthritis Line to the volunteers who make our camps — both virtual and in-person — possible for children living with arthritis, we are so grateful for the time and energy our volunteers give to the cause,” says Trish Barbato, president and CEO of the Arthritis Society.