June Preston: Deaf & Blind Advocacy


“I don’t want this story to be about me,” June said. “I want it to be about volunteers and the organizations in the community that mean and do so much.”

As a formidable octogenarian with a bright smile, a big heart and a twinkle in her eyes, it is clear that June still means what she says.

June was the first social worker hired at what was then called the Queen Alexandra Hospital for Children. Surrounded by medical professionals who had their own ways of working, June realized that as a team of one, she needed to acknowledge the existing systems and find new ways to better serve the children and families she met at the hospital.

It is not easy to solve big problems, but June always found ways to make things better. In fact, talking to others and inviting them to help build a vision has always been June’s secret ingredient when baking up community projects.

June fondly remembers the mid-1970s when a small group of friends, colleagues and neighbours realized that they could help seniors living in Oak Bay. By 1977, Oak Bay Volunteers was an official entity, and is still working today to help with everyday tasks and to offer friendship and support to seniors.

One person cannot eradicate loneliness for every senior living in a community, but a team of volunteers with a shared vision can serve thousands of seniors for decades. It just took a small group of people to get the ball rolling and new volunteers to keep up the momentum. Each generation of volunteers leads the way, and then steps back to allow others to step up.

June’s community activism did not begin and end with Oak Bay Volunteers. This is just one example in decades of volunteerism. June was a board member with Family Services of Greater Victoria, she is a lifelong member of the BC Law Society (as the only social worker on the team), and is currently involved in a new, much more personal project.

A close family member has been served by the wonderful team at Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing for years, but now requires more support for vision loss. To June’s surprise, British Columbia did not have an established deaf and blind advocacy organization. June decided that she needed more information and would look within and beyond the doors of the hospital to find it.

So, if you meet June this year and she is talking about the need for more services for people who are deaf and blind, she is not only talking about people she cares about. She is spreading the word, making connections, looking for people who can help and helping to build a team that can change the world for a group of people who need our support. After all, this story is not about June. It is about people.