Alumni Update – Maria Denholme 1982 TFHA Scholar
1982 TFHA Scholar
Mental Health Social Worker for Vancouver Coastal Health
We have Terry Fox Scholars working in a wide range of fields, including medicine, activism, and tech. Do you have an area of humanitarian work you are passionate about? Tell us about it.
I am passionate about mental health and also about theatre. Mental Health is an easy connection to humanitarian work, theatre as a key venue for story telling and human connection in this day or distance and tech is also a key piece of community too.
Since Terry ran his Marathon of Hope we have seen many new life-saving advances in cancer treatment. How has the humanitarian area you have worked/volunteered in changed over the years?
I spent many years working in youth leadership and camping while I was in school and afterwards. For the last 20 years I have been working in the arts and in theatre (as a patron, donor, board member, and artist) as my main community contribution. I have also now spent 35 years working full time in mental health and addictions working with individuals severely impacted by both mental health and substance use challenges. I have spent a great deal of my career in mandated services dealing with some of the most severely impacted folks (forensic psych, drug court, severe and persistent mental health, acute inpatient psychiatry). I can’t say that my other passion, travel, has been a humanitarian effort on my part but it most certainly has given me the chance to expand my horizons which in turn has enriched my life and work at home.
You are the first year’s recipient of the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award in 1982. How has humanitarian work impacted your life?
Both my paid and voluntary community work have impacted pretty much every aspect of my life, including providing the income to support myself and to support the causes I choose to support. It has taught me gratitude. It has provided me with my main avenue for connection to other people and to the community. It has provided an opportunity for me to explore a wide array of worldviews, perspectives, and schools of thought, and to explore my own inner landscape. It has allowed me access to people and places that I would never have had the opportunity to interact with otherwise. Life really is about connection and, for me, my career and volunteer work has been the avenue through which I have found connection… and life.
More About Maria Denholme
Maria completed her social work degree in 1986, with the support of the inaugural Terry Fox Humanitarian Award. She is still in the process of her 35+ year career in social work, much of which has been spent working with people who have severe challenges with both mental health and substance use. It has taken her from Bella Bella (where she owes a debt of great gratitude to the members of the Heiltsuk Nation who offered her her first professional job) to Prince Rupert, and home again to the Lower Mainland. In 2012 she finally went back and got her MSW with a concentration in organizational leadership and she is now putting that to use in all of her various pursuits. Along the way Maria spent many years working in youth leadership and children’s camping and found a passion for theatre, and travel. She is now a board member of Up In the Air Theatre in Vancouver, a fan, and a stage manager. Soon she hopes to retire from her current waged work to explore other ways of connecting and building community here at home, making art and telling stories, and learning about these things in other parts of the world, with much more time available for traveling.