Skip to main content

Volunteer with disability strives to empower others to live positively


VICTORIA, B.C. — Les Chan is creating needlework that he hopes will leave people in stitches.

“The power of humour is that everybody can have fun,” Les smiles, before flipping through photos of his original series of comedic teacups.

Footwear dancing above a teacup is titled, ‘Shake your Boot-tea’, sticks of dynamite exploding around a teacup is called, ‘Tea N’ T’ and two women posing in different sized bras beside a teacup is named, ‘A-cup, B-cup, Teacup.’

While needlework is “punny,” the prospect of sewing them with his one hand would have seemed impossible, after the seizure that hospitalized Les at 13.

“At the time, the doctors told my family I would not see 14,” Les says.

It was a brain tumour that left Led with limited function on the left side of his body.

“All the kids at school teased me,” Les says.

Despite being battered with both racial slurs and derogatory comments about his disability, the bullies couldn’t break Les’s spirit.

“It’s a tough road,” Les says. “But you go on.”

Les resolved to be self-reliant. He taught himself everything from how to knot a tie with one hand, to strapping a watch with a leather buckle on his wrist by himself.

“It’s really started to be a parlour trick,” Les laughs after clenching the strap between his teeth and using the end of a paintbrush to clasp the buckle.

They are just a couple of the countless skills Les felt compelled to start sharing, after meeting others facing similar challenges.

“I think a lot of people just give up and say, ‘I’m screwed,’” Les says.

So Les started volunteering to teach others how to live life with a disability differently.

“The food thing is a big deal in my life,” Les says.

Les says people with dexterity issues can struggle to make healthy meals, so he wrote a humorous cookbook called ‘Don’t Stirfry in the Nude,’ and regularly offers free classes on how to be fearless in the kitchen.

“It’s a passion,” Laurie McFarlane, the program instructor at After Stroke BC says. “He wants to give back.”

Laurie says watching Les’s volunteer work is inspirational.

“He lives life to fullest,” Laurie smiles.

After dedicating decades to serving on local and national boards, and volunteering with countless community groups, Les says he’s learned that every obstacle we face is an opportunity to make a choice.

“Try to figure out what it says,” Les asks, holding up a sign that reads ‘OPPORTUNITY ISNOWHERE.’

“Opportunity is nowhere,” I say.

“Yes,” Les says. “But what if you read it again?”

After a moment, I see it can also be ‘opportunity is now here.’

Les says it’s an example how we can choose to see things negatively or positively.

If we return to his punny needle-work, you could say that Les chooses, instead of being a timid ‘Kit-Tea’ (a kitten in a teacup), to live as boldly as a ‘Tea-Rex’ (a dinosaur in a teacup).

Les doesn’t just reap the joy he sews, he shares it.

“I don’t want to just sit around and do nothing,” he says. “I want to create a better world for everyone.” Top Stories

Stay Connected