For Barbara Allen volunteering with the Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society is about giving back and joining in. It’s also about not giving in to the obstacles life confronts you with.

Moving to Chemainus five years ago, she has continued her life-long habit of volunteering, but her accepting the nomination for a seat on the CVCAS board, which was confirmed at the society’s AGM March 10, is stretching her in new directions.

Not that she hasn’t had to adapt before. A horrific car crash 30 years ago forever changed Barbara’s outlook. She had to learn to walk and talk again, transitioning into her new life as a person ‘with different abilities’. 

She will be bringing that perspective to the CVCAS Board as an advocate for people who face challenges getting around in a world that isn’t designed with their unique abilities and needs in mind.

The bandshell in Waterwheel Park, for instance, has shortcomings most wouldn’t be aware of. Its wheelchair accessible balcony is sometimes co-opted as a dance floor, for example, an inconvenience Barbara is aware of because she loves to dance to the music herself. Perhaps another space could be provided.

And the visually impaired don’t have the kind of lighting and guides that would make it easier for them to find seating on the bandshell’s benches. “Without that people with visual impairments won’t feel comfortable coming in,” she said.

Barbara is also drawn to the CVCAS because she is an artist herself. Saori weaving is one of her passions.

Described as a ‘free-form’ style, which allows artists to exhibit their ‘true self through expressive, no-rules weaving’, Barbara’s work has been noticed already with an entry that earned second place recognition at the Cowichan Exhibition.

Saori originated in Japan. “You weave strips of material into it and then you fold the material, it’s like origami with cloth,” she said. Her Cowichan Exhibition piece is extra special because it includes strands of fur from her dog.

Music is another of her passions, though she admits to being a beginner on the two guitars she has hanging on her wall at home. Busking on Willow Street isn’t a role she’s ready to take on. “I’m not good enough for that,” she joked. “Nobody would throw money into my hat.”

But she looks forward to participating in the song circles organized by musical members of the CVCAS, where she hopes to improve her skills and have some fun.