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NATIONAL VOLUNTEER WEEK: Comox Valley ElderCollege fueled by volunteer power

By Barbara Bruederlin

By Barbara Bruederlin

Special to the Record

Comox Valley ElderCollege (CVEC) would be nothing without volunteers. Literally.

The lifelong learning organization, whose mission is to deliver vibrant and affordable educational opportunities to older adults, prides itself on being 100 per cent volunteer run. Partnered and supported by North Island College, which provides the premises and a tireless liaison officer, CVEC offers courses to 55-plus adults for as little as $5 per session.

Now in its 23rd year, CVEC is recognized as the largest provider of third age learning in the province. Membership typically hovers around 1,000 students. While other Vancouver Island ElderColleges were forced to shut their doors during COVID, CVEC volunteers rapidly pivoted to move courses online.

At any given time, upwards of 50 enthusiastic volunteers offer their wisdom and skills to keep CVEC wheels turning smoothly. Volunteers manage the curriculum, produce the Connector newsletter, support new members, keep financial records, and assist with the extremely popular Saturday morning lecture series. In addition, 50-60 course leaders (who are the de facto faces of CVEC for most members) present one or more courses in each of the two semesters offered per year.

Course leader Dianne Volrich and her partner Roland Semjanovs are two faces that CVEC students have seen frequently over the past five years, both in person in pre-COVID days and later via Zoom school. Their tag-team presentations on maritime history and world culture speak to their eclectic interests and passion for learning, traits widely shared among CVEC members.

“We like to research something we’re interested in and then it’s a pleasure to share it with someone else,” says Dianne. “Roland is a techy and does fine details well, and I am a storyteller, so we’re a good fit for ElderCollege.”

Dianne and Roland describe the gratification they receive from volunteering with CVEC as two-fold: hearing students rave about their presentations (and seeing them come back for more) and “being students ourselves, as much as teachers.”

Curious about courses or wondering about volunteer opportunities at Comox Valley ElderCollege? Find out more at