British Columbia

Friends for Life Society celebrates 20 years at the Diamond Centre for Living

This weekend marks 20 years since the Friends For Life Society opened the doors to its West End Victorian home to help people with HIV, cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Society first operated out of two-bedroom apartment in Vancouver's West End

Every Monday and Wednesday, the Friends for Life Society hosts a free brunch that draws a regular crowd of about 50 to 60 members. (CBC)

This weekend marks 20 years since the Friends For Life Society opened the doors to its West End Victorian home to help people with HIV, cancer and other life-threatening diseases. 

The society had humble beginnings, operating out of a two bedroom apartment on Beach Avenue at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

"This organization started supplying massages, hot nutritious meals, and comfort and love and support to people and their families and their partners that were affected by that disease at the time," said Kim Angel, executive director of the Friends for Life Society.

"With the amount of people that were suffering at that point in time from this disease, it was very clear they needed more space." 

The society negotiated a $1 a year lease with the City of Vancouver to take over a Victorian home on Barclay Street — the only stipulation was that the society had to renovate the interior. 

Providing hope and love

Felicity Mayhew says she was petrified when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer, but her situation improved when a rehabilitation worker recommended she visit Friends for Life. 
Felicity Mayhew has been a member of the Friends for Life Society for 15 years. (CBC)

"It's been 15 years and I've never looked back. Each and every day is so special here for me at Friends for Life. The house is warm, it's loving, it's compassionate and it's very inclusive. It's really wonderful to be a part of it."

Changing lives

"This home single handedly changed my life and everything that I stand for," said Scott Oliver, who was diagnosed as HIV positive in 2006.  
Scott Oliver joined the society after being diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2006 and is now a practitioner. (CBC)

"Such a huge aspect of this home is that it allows you to have the full realization that it is the furthest thing from a life-threatening illness. The moment you walk in that door, something happens. No better way to say it. It just happens." 

Angel believes the Diamond Centre for Living will remain a fixture in the community for the next 20 years and beyond, but wants the society to make roots in different communities across B.C..

"The vision is branching out, helping more people in as many areas as we possibly can."

To hear the full mix, listen to the audio labelled Friends for Life Society 20 years

With files from Jennifer Chen


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