Nearly a decade after being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, Karen Schilling’s best friend, Farzana Jamal, approached her with an opportunity that would profoundly change her life. She invited Karen to volunteer for World Partnership Golf.
At the time, Karen had been seriously battling the symptoms of her arthritis: “I was, for all intents and purposes, homebound, moving from couch to chair. Functioning was difficult.”
Knowing Farzana was counting on her, she accepted the invitation anyway. “I had started a new medication and was getting a little better, but I felt confident that I could help her at least a little bit,” says Karen.
The first few days volunteering with the Golf in Toronto were long and fast-paced. “The evening was from 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM, and then we got up at the next day at 6:00 AM and we weren’t done until 10:00 PM,” she says. “It was a big deal, but I loved every minute of it. It was great!”
Karen was initially intimidated by the calibre of volunteers she would be working alongside, though these insecurities quickly fell to the wayside. “They were all just so kind and welcoming,” she says. “I really felt like I was embraced, appreciated, and respected by this group of people who I admired.”
What started as one friend helping another became the catalyst for Karen to embark on her personal healing journey. “I started feeling better after that day, and it allowed me to prepare myself for the huge changes that I needed to make in order to [become healthy]. For the first time in my life – I’m well.”
Not only has Karen’s health improved over the course of her volunteering, but her commitment to improving the lives of others has been reconfirmed. “I know that when you empower a woman you empower community. It’s always been my mission to help those that are suffering or can’t help themselves. I just want to take care of people – that’s my goal in life.”
Karen’s is a phenomenal story of transformation, but it is ultimately a story of gratitude. “I’ve received a lot of blessings because of my volunteering and they are too great to count,” she says.