Walking a Mile in Their Shoes
A highly respected surgeon and physician specializing in women’s health, Dr. Annette Epp is no stranger to fundraising galas. She enjoys donating to a variety of causes, and her Generosity Plan™ with Abundance Canada allows her to fulfill her charitable goals in a strategic manner. However, Annette knows the importance of not just donating generously but living generously everyday. She says, “If you are too lofty and you spend your life in foundation dinners and balls, you’re missing the point. There’s something a whole lot more poignant right at your doorstep.”
A Cause Close to Her Heart
“In my Province, HIV is definitely an epidemic,” says Annette. One of her favourite charities is a local grassroots organization that provides services to HIV patients, including hospice, housing, and a prenatal care centre for high-risk HIV-positive women and their babies. in June of 2017, the charity invited her to participate in their annual fundraiser where local leaders set aside their regular lives and experience homelessness for a period of 36 hours. “I agreed to do this because I felt like it was an important cause,” says Annette.
A Life-Changing Experience
Early on a chilly June morning, Annette traded her personal belongings (except a phone to document the experience) for clothes and shoes from a donation bin and went out to spend a weekend on the street. She recalls, “We had no ID. We had no money. We had no food… Nobody knows you. Nobody cares.” It wasn’t long before she realized how naïve she’d been about the reality of homelessness. “It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life,” she says.
For 36 hours, Annette was challenged to see the world differently with each step she walked in the shoes of her community’s most vulnerable people. “It was a very life-changing experience to go from being somebody who has a credit card, drives whenever I want, and gets a lot of respect in the community to panhandling and having people literally run away from me because they were afraid,” says Annette.
“It just made me feel like we have got to stop right now and pay attention to what we are doing to other human beings.”
A New Perspective on Generosity
At the end of the 36 hours, Annette shared her eye-opening experience with hundreds of influential members of the Saskatoon community at the charity’s gala banquet, a story which she hopes both galvanized empathy and inspired a new propensity for generosity.
The survivor experience not only raised significant funds for a charity close to Annette’s heart, she says it continues to impact her life today. “It was only 36 hours,” she says. “But it was very pivotal in terms of seeing someone else’s perspective. It gave me a whole different mindset in terms of generosity and how you treat people that you see on the street.”
Abundance Canada client Dr. Annette Epp gained a new perspective on generosity when she experienced homelessness firsthand.
Watch Annette share her story about this experience in our recent video series: https://youtu.be/czOjn2lt-0I
Contributed by Susan Yakabowich
Gift Planning Consultant