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Shawn De Lierre: from professional squash player to Canadian Red Cross support aide

Like many people this year, Shawn De Lierre saw his daily life change pretty drastically. The professional squash player traded his racquet and sportswear for a mask and gown to assist the staff and residents at various living facilities in Quebec, including long-term care (LTC) homes.
 
Shawn playing tennisAfter playing his last game on March 1, 2020, the two-time Canadian squash champion had been planning to get some rest and then dive back into training. But as it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to resume playing, Shawn had to rethink his plan.

Seeing that the situation in hospitals and long-term care homes in Quebec was becoming increasingly critical, Shawn felt the need to get involved and answered the Red Cross’ call.

After receiving training specific to his new role, Shawn was deployed to a long-term care home in Montreal — an experience that he’s not about to forget.

He had been afraid that he wouldn’t be able to build connections and make conversation with people who have much more life experience than him. But in reality, getting involved led him to discover new sides of his personality and put his people skills to work, being compassionate, patient, and a good listener.

“When you go into someone’s room, you’re entering their private space. I had to find a way to connect with each of the residents. Generally, as soon as I mentioned that I was with the Red Cross, I was given a warm welcome. The Red Cross has a special place in people’s hearts. Seniors and their families thank us for being there and are happy to see us.”


Shawn in mask and eye protectionSome people are more reserved than others, though, and a little strategy can be needed to make a connection. One resident, who spent most of his time in his room, talked very little. “I noticed that he had a guitar on his wall… I took the guitar down and started to play. He was touched, and that’s what helped us connect,” remembers Shawn.

Shawn will soon be coming to the end of his time as a support aide. He says it has given him a real sense of satisfaction and a certain pride that he has been useful to others.

His biggest takeaway? Beyond the health care that they receive, our seniors are in particular need of a comforting presence, kindness, support, and a sympathetic ear.

“Your presence is enough. They want to be there for you as much as you are for them.”

This sums up the Canadian Red Cross humanitarian force in a nutshell — it’s all about offering comfort to those who need it, during the most difficult of times.

“Joining the Red Cross filled all the parts of me that were missing. You can’t feel more whole as a human being than when helping others.”


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