Kitchener, Waterloo & Cambridge Area

29 Young Street East
Waterloo, Ontario N2J 2L4 (Google Map)
Telephone: 519-603-0223
Fax: 519-888-6422

Wellington, Dufferin & Guelph Area

176 Wyndham Street North
Guelph, Ontario N1H 8N9 (Google Map)
Telephone: 877-351-9857
Fax: 519-888-6422


Meet Johnathan!

If you’ve spent any time around Sanguen’s offices in Waterloo or Guelph, you know that our team includes some amazing volunteer outreach workers! In the coming months, we’d like to introduce them to you here on the Sanguen blog.

Last month we profiled Sharon – this month we’re giving you the chance to get to know Johnathan Higgins. Johnathan celebrated his 2 year “Sanguenaversary” in September, and he’s here to give us the scoop on why he works with us.

Johnathan at World Hepatitis Day.

Hi Johnathan! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Well my name is Johnathan and I have lived in Kitchener for the past 4 years along with a rather robust cat named Shamuu who turns 19 in November. Originally from Nova Scotia, I am a free spirit who loves life and strives to make the best out of any situation and always has a joke on hand if someone needs cheering up.

You’ve been volunteering with us for two years – what do you do when you’re not volunteering?

When not with Sanguen, I have another part time job in the community and enjoy travelling, shopping and am getting ready to go back to university in the spring.

What might someone be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a pretty open book so not too many surprises!

I know this isn’t your first, or only, volunteering gig – why do you do it?

I like helping my community in any way possible. I volunteer because I know I can be of help to others with my educational background and lived experience, I’ve been where they have been so to speak and know that walking a hard path is a little easier when you have someone by your side.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Sanguen specifically?

I joined Sanguen because I think what the team does is wonderful. Being a gay man I know the effects of HepC and HIV on the population, and anything I can do to support awareness, testing and treatment is a step in the right direction.

What motivates you to stay involved with us?

I stay with Sanguen because I love what I do and there is a genuine need for the outreach team in the community, I have made a lot of good friends along the way and learned a ton of new stuff. And I will take my new found knowledge wherever I go in the future and let it help me to help others.

You learn new things and we benefit from your help – that’s a great deal for all of us. Of the many things you do while volunteering for Sanguen, what’s your favourite? Why?

I can’t really say I have a favourite aspect to Sanguen because I love what I do. I love the clients very much and getting to spend time with them and hearing their stories is a wonderful experience that touches me very deeply.

Have you learned anything while volunteering for Sanguen that surprised you?

I think upon starting Sanguen I did have a misguided impression of who are clients were going to be. I didn’t realize Hep C affects everyone regardless of sex, age, sexual orientation, background or economic status. We are all the same and we all need to be educated about Hep C.

That’s really important information for people to know. Related to that, I’m curious – why is harm reduction important to you?

Harm reduction is important because it has been proven that it does stop the transmission of new infections. For me it is not someone passing judgement on someone else regarding if they use [substances] or not, it is merely saying that if you are going to use please do it safely and protect yourself and others. Everyone deserves this right.

What would you tell someone who’s thinking about volunteering for Sanguen?

I would tell any one interested in volunteering for sanguen to go for it….its a wonderful experience and what it gives you back to you is immeasurable.

In your opinion, why is outreach an important part of Sanguen’s work?

I think outreach is important because a lot of people with Hep C are ashamed of their status and fear they will be treated differently. We are here to show you that everyone is equal and being positive does not make you a second class citizen. As an outreach worker I love meeting new people and walking with them on their journey wherever that may lead.

What do you wish more people knew about Hepatitis C?

That it can be cured, plain and simple.

How do you feel about the people you meet while doing outreach in our community?

I love meeting new people in the community. Whether it be clients or other people from different organizations any chance we have to spread info about Hep C is great. The more people who know, the less stigma there is out there!

Take us behind the scenes. Tell us about an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.

I had an experience where a young woman came to me for supplies. She seemed very down on her self and depressed. I gave her the supplies she needed and then started telling her jokes. Yes they were lame jokes (as almost all of my jokes are…lol) and it took about 4 of them before I could get her to laugh but eventually she did. I laughed with her and she gave me a hug, she said that I had cheered her up. The supplies she could get anywhere but the fact I took the time out to make her smile meant the world to her.

I told her to keep her chin up and that I would have more jokes for her the next time I saw her. She left in a better mood then she came in and I knew I had made a difference in her life if only a small one and if only for that day. That for me was worth it and gave me the validation I needed to know I was doing the right thing for my community by being with Sanguen. Now occasionally she has a joke for me!

Thank you so much, Johnathan. We’re glad you’re a part of our team and our community!!

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