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Maria C., Personal Support Worker, is the recipient of the Yvonne Greaves Award for Leadership as part of our Spotlight Awards series.

Being a Strong Voice for Her Peers

Circle of Care PSW Maria was motivated to become a leader for her fellow PSWs after seeing the many challenges that they face in the community.

“We’re dealing with a lot of things that go unseen unless you’re the one experiencing them,” says Maria. “And nothing can be done if no one knows! That’s why it’s important that challenges are spoken about and raised to the union and to management at Circle of Care. I wanted to be one of those leaders, and so I was motivated to join the Health and Safety committee, as well as become a union steward.”

With over nine years of experience as a PSW, Maria approaches each day with compassion and patience for both her clients and colleagues. For her, being able to help others is what she looks forward to every day.

“Providing comfort to others makes me happy,” says Maria. “It’s really important to me that my colleagues and clients feel safe.”

In addition to her regular duties as a PSW, Maria’s leadership roles as a union steward and member of Circle of Care’s Health and Safety Committee have given her the platform to become a strong voice for her PSW colleagues.

“Maria is very connected to her fellow PSWs,” said Kai Svirida, Health, Safety, and Wellness Specialist. “She’s the type of person that truly strives to make our workplace better and works to make sure our PSWs have the necessary supports to do their jobs well.”

As a kind and approachable person, many PSWs find it easy to come to Maria with issues or concerns. She listens to each of her peers, and provides them with the support they need, or connects them to someone who can. It could be something as simple as helping them fill out a form, or something a bit more complex, such as supporting her peers emotionally through difficult challenges they face, and encouraging them to seek help.

“One of my colleagues was facing bullying, and they didn’t know how to approach the situation.” says Maria. “After talking with them and encouraging them to talk to management, the situation was quickly resolved. Sometimes they need someone to talk to in a difficult situation like that, and give them suggestions and coaching for how to resolve their concerns.”

Throughout the pandemic, Maria has been providing feedback to the Health and Safety committee about the quality of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that staff are required to wear, letting them know about how the equipment works, and how PSWs feel about wearing it, and whether they’re receiving enough of each item.

“That ‘in-the-community’ information has been really valuable to share,” says Maria. “I talk to a lot of my fellow PSWs, and hear from them over chat, and they feel comfortable sharing information about PPE and other health and safety concerns, and then I can bring that forward to the committee.”

Celebrated for Her Leadership

In December 2021, Maria received the first annual Yvonne Greaves Award for Leadership. This award is given to a Personal Support Worker who displays leadership in their role. They are someone that their peers can look up to as a role model. They are willing to contribute to the success of the organization by going above and beyond, which could include being an excellent union steward, or a fantastic contributing member to a committee or project. No matter what they do, this person is always willing to go the extra mile at work.

“I am very happy and proud to help my clients, represent my work community and be their voice whenever they need to,” says Maria.

Who is Yvonne Greaves?

Yvonne Greaves worked at Circle of Care for 37 years and was adored and respected by her clients and her peers. While she worked at Circle of Care, she served as Chief Union Steward and was a member of our Joint Health and Safety Committee. She held high standards for care and compassion, serving as a role model for a generation of PSWs. Being a proud PSW was a core part of her identity.

“People think PSWs are just men and women that go in and do a little bit of chores,” said Yvonne. “It isn’t so, especially with more complex care patients coming into the community. We feed them, change them, make sure they are comfortable, remind them of their medications. I love people. I’m really, truly a people person. I go in professionally with a kind heart, ready to serve, even if it’s for one day.”

After Yvonne passed away in 2021 at the age of 69, Circle of Care dedicated an Award for Leadership in her name, as she was the embodiment of leadership and compassion.