Community Profiles

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Communities in Action

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Communities in Action

Princeton Volunteer Receives Medal of Good Citizenship

Jackie Tegart, MLA for Fraser-Nicola, on behalf of Premier Christy Clark, presented Joann Gabriel, a well-known Princeton citizen, with the province’s newest honour, the Medal of Good Citizenship. The ceremony was held Friday, March 24, 2017 at 11 a.m. at the Vermillion Fork Restaurant in Princeton.

Launched in July 2015 by Premier Christy Clark, the prestigious Medal of Good Citizenship recognizes individuals who, through exceptional long-term service, have made outstanding contributions to their communities without expectation of remuneration or reward. The medal reflects their generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life. Nominations for the Medal of Good Citizenship are accepted year-round.

Joann Gabriel receiving her medalJoann Gabriel, a retired public school teacher, was honoured with the medal for volunteer service spanning 56 years to the community of Princeton. Her service to community and countless hours of volunteering include serving on the board of the Princeton and District Community Services (PDCSS), a non-profit organization, to meet the needs of the elderly and mentally challenged. Joining in 1979, Gabriel has been treasurer for eleven years and chair for 24 years, under the administration of three executive directors. She is committed to the work the society does under its twelve programs, which include home care, meals-on-wheels, transportation, housing for the elderly and developmentally disabled, adult day center, and an activity center with employment opportunities for mentally challenged in the community.

Among her many other contributions, Gabriel was also instrumental in developing the programs run by the Princeton and District Community Services, demonstrating a passion for making sure that those less fortunate in her community are visible and function in a way that incorporates them into their community as productive members. Besides PDCSS, Gabriel has also volunteered and served the executives of the Princeton Curling Club, Royal Purple, Kinettes, Princeton Library, Kokanee Summer Swim Club, Princeton Recreation Commission, Vermilion Forks Field Naturalist Club, Princeton Arts Council and St. Paul’s United Church Board and Women's Group over the past 56 years.

Okanagan Falls Volunteer Receives Medal of Good Citizenship

MLA for Boundary-Similkameen Linda Larson, on behalf of Premier Christy Clark, presented Edwin Findlater, a well-known Okanagan Falls citizen, with the Province’s newest honour, the Medal of Good Citizenship. The ceremony was held Thursday, March 23 at 12:30 p.m. in the Club Room at the Okanagan Falls Elementary School.  

Launched in July 2015 by Premier Clark, the prestigious Medal of Good Citizenship recognizes individuals who, through exceptional long-term service, have made outstanding contributions to their communities without expectation of remuneration or reward. The medal reflects their generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life. Nominations for the Medal of Good Citizenship are accepted year-round.

Edwin Findlater receiving his medalFindlater was honoured with the medal for his dedication to the needs of veterans, persons facing special hardships, and the elderly. Since taking up residence in the Southern Okanagan Valley 32 years ago, Findlater has served his community and the province in numerous voluntary and leadership positions, including president of the Penticton Red Cross, chair of the Okanagan Falls Legacy Fund, president of Branch 227 Canadian Legion for six years, chairman of the South Okanagan/Similkameen Legion Zone, chairman of the BC Yukon Legion Command for 15 years, chairman of Okanagan Falls Helping Hands, chairman and board trustee of Okanagan Falls United Church, past superintendent of St. John’s Ambulance, director for BC Summer Games in Penticton, and the security chief for BC Winter and Summer Games.

In addition he has been a member of the RCMP Auxiliary for 10 years, volunteer for Iron Man Canada for 23 years, coach for Special Olympics, founder of Citizens on Patrol in Okanagan Falls and Penticton, an Air Cadet instructor, volunteer with Okanagan Falls Visitors Centre, and an organizer for Okanagan Falls Community Policing. Among his many other contributions, Findlater was also instrumental in establishing the South Skaha Housing Society with the goal of developing affordable housing for seniors living in Okanagan Falls, and because of his vision and leadership, the project is becoming a real possibility.

Arising from his 35 years of service in the Canadian Armed Forces, and subsequently with the Royal Canadian Legion, Findlater has received the Minister of Veteran’s Affairs Commendation and the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award.

North Burnaby Couple Receives Medal of Good Citizenship

On March 12, 2017, Richard Lee, MLA for Burnaby North, on behalf of Premier Christy Clark, presented the Medal of Good Citizenship to Lou Ryan, a well-known North Burnaby citizen, and Lou’s son Bradley on behalf of his late father Ken Ryan.

Launched in July 2015 by Premier Clark, the prestigious Medal of Good Citizenship recognizes individuals who, through exceptional long-term service, have made outstanding contributions to their communities without expectation of remuneration or reward. The medal reflects their generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life. Nominations for the Medal of Good Citizenship are accepted year-round.

Ken and Lou Ryan were a dynamic North Burnaby couple that for decades stepped up to either organize or volunteer for a myriad of events and services in the community. Ken passed away in January but the community legacy created by him and his wife Lou will continue.

The Ryan's receiving their medalsFor the past 23 years they were the engine behind the Burnaby North Community Fair in Kensington Park, which promotes businesses and organizations and gives families a chance to come together in the summer time, ride the midway and listen to live music. Every year the couple ran a Christmas Holiday hamper program, approaching local businesses and community members for donations to fill gift hampers with non-perishable food items and other everyday essentials for low-income families.

The couple regularly rolled up their sleeves to help at food banks, school hotdog days, and at the Lochdale Community School Christmas pancake breakfast. In the course of serving during Homelessness Action Week, they met a homeless man who made such an impact on them that they invited him to live in their home and join them in their community volunteer activities. That man, Wes Thompson, passed away this year as a loved member of the Ryan family, no longer homeless and no longer isolated.

In the 1990s Ken created Comshare, a North Burnaby Community Association summer camp program that provides six weeks of camp experiences and outdoor adventure for children in Grades K to 6. He also served over the years as the acting treasurer of the BNCA, president of Burnaby Optimists, as well as Block Watch Captain, working closely with the local RCMP. Under the auspices of the Optimists, Ken and Lou organized Burnaby’s Got Talent performances which helps fund bursaries for deserving children within Burnaby, as well as the Optimist Communication Contest, a for deaf and hard of hearing students. Together Ken and Lou were very active with Volunteer Burnaby and the Lochdale Community Association.

Quesnel Couple Receives Medal of Good Citizenship

On March 14, 2017, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Development and Minister Responsible for Labour Shirley Bond, on behalf of Premier Christy Clark, presented Paul and Terry Nichols, well-known Quesnel citizens, with the Province’s significant honour, the Medal of Good Citizenship. The ceremony was held at the Hall of Honour in the B.C. Parliament Buildings.

Launched in July 2015 by Premier Christy Clark, the prestigious Medal of Good Citizenship recognizes individuals who, through exceptional long-term service, have made outstanding contributions to their communities without expectation of remuneration or reward. The medal reflects their generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life. Nominations for the Medal of Good Citizenship are accepted year-round.

The Nichols devote themselves to bringing awareness to the difficulties Canadian soldiers can face when they transition back into civilian life. They also have developed a program to help returning veterans overcome operational stress injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) incurred from military deployments. 

When Paul returned home from serving with the Canadian military on a United Nations Peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia, he came home to a wife, family and community who had little understanding of his experience as a contemporary veteran. There was also little understanding of PTSD and the important role that community plays in the wellness of their veterans.

During a chance meeting with a survivor of the siege of Sarajevo, Paul heard for the first time that his own contribution in the Balkans made a difference and was thanked for his part in a Canadian mission that had saved countless lives. Through this discussion he realized the power of a shared story.

The Nichols understood that their struggles and their story are very similar to hundreds of others across Canada. They believed they had the skills and experience to make a difference.

The Nichols operate a farm in the Quesnel area where Paul found therapy while taking long, solitary rides on his beloved horse Zoe. Terry, a therapeutic riding instructor, used horses for her own rehabilitation after a traumatic injury left her wheelchair bound for many months. Together they know first hand the healing power of horses. Knowing that thousands of soldiers return from combat zones with physical and mental injuries, they began to see a vision to bring awareness to the difficulties facing returning soldiers as they re-enter our communities.

In 2014, the Nichols formed the Communities for Veterans Foundation and set a plan into motion that would see Paul ride across Canada on horseback to collect and share stories and to raise awareness. On April 15, 2015, they started out from the Parliament Buildings in Victoria with a seven-person crew, eight horses and a route from British Columbia to Newfoundland. Along this route, after successfully completing an in-depth riding lesson with Terry, Canadian veterans were invited to join Paul on the ride through their own communities.

During the ride veterans interacted with the public and were encouraged to share their own stories and thoughts as they discussed the challenges that our veterans face. Eleven thousand kilometres and 211 days later, 363 veterans had ridden with Paul and hundreds more had taken part in Terry’s program. Thousands of veterans and tens of thousands of Canadians came out in support of the Nichols’ mission.

Back home, their veteran program operating on the farm gives veterans from across Canada tools to deal with PTSD and helps to build stronger relationships and families. The Nichols have reached out and invited the community to assist in running the program, as they believe that in order for our veterans to find support in communities, a societal shift in understanding and appreciation must happen; an investment in veterans will lead to stronger veterans and stronger communities.

The Nichols and Peter Lawless receiving their medals

Victoria Sports Ambassador Receives Medal of Good Citizenship

On March 14, 2017, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour Shirley Bond, on behalf of Premier Christy Clark, presented Peter Lawless, a well-known Victoria citizen, with the Province’s newest honour, the Medal of Good Citizenship. The ceremony was held at the Hall of Honour in the B.C. Parliament Buildings.

Launched in July 2015 by Premier Christy Clark, the prestigious Medal of Good Citizenship recognizes individuals who, through exceptional long-term service, have made outstanding contributions to their communities without expectation of remuneration or reward. The medal reflects their generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life. Nominations for the Medal of Good Citizenship are accepted year-round.

Lawless was honoured with the medal for being a passionate advocate for sport as a means to transform community and his leadership and dedication has been vital to numerous initiatives becoming reality.

While his accomplishments are many, SoldierOn is one program where he has made a specific and notable difference. When hearing about this Canadian Forces program that assists ill and or injured members in their recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration through sport, Lawless, the vice president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, used his sports experience and connections, as well as the facilities in the Victoria area, to create a meaningful sport experience for these military members.

Lawless set up a multisport camp that hosted over 30 athletes from across the country. He connected the military athletes with high-performance coaches from the Paralympic Team and arranged for fully funded access to Victoria’s high-performance training centre with financial assistance from PacificSport Victoria.

He next volunteered to coach for the 2016 lnvictus Games in Florida. He facilitated free access to the new high-performance training centre in Toronto and arranged for various Olympic Champions to give motivational talks and coaching to the Canadian lnvictus team.

Upon his return from lnvictus Games in 2016, he arranged for every single B.C.-based athlete to receive a Bravo Zulu commendation from the admiral in command of Maritime Forces Pacific. His passion, enthusiasm and success further resulted in him being asked to be the head coach for the entire 2017 Canadian team.

Community Partnerships Help to Create an Inclusive Port Coquitlam

British Columbia recognizes October as Community Living Month, a time to celebrate the achievements of people with disabilities as fully participating members of our society. In addition, this month celebrates the organizations, like the Community Integration Services Society (CISS), that make a difference in the lives of people living with developmental disabilities.

Adam is one of the people Minister Stilwell met during her visit. Not only is Adam involved with CISS programs like volunteering in a physical fitness program and at a local senior centre, but he was also recently hired by Vancity as one of their Administrators. CISS Executive Director Shari Maher feels that work can have a transformative effect in the lives of people with disabilities and that’s why CISS provides employment skills and training in order for participants to live more independently. “Community partnerships help us achieve our goals,” Mahar says. She notes that they have participants who are working in the community at Starbucks, McDonalds, Boston Pizza, Avon, and more, and she is openly proud of the successes of her participants. “There is so much going on in the community, I can’t keep track of it,” she boasts.

Minister Stilwell with CISS

Kyle’s Kitchen, one of the organization’s programs, is doing just that. Participants, like Sarah, have the opportunity to learn food preparation skills to prepare them for future employment in one of many related career paths. Sarah, who works for Melissa Park Catering, is very proud of her skills and her cooking and most recently made cookies in preparation for Minister Stilwell’s visit – and her family says she couldn’t be happier.

Ashish, a young man with a passion for trains, successfully secured his dream volunteer job with help from CISS and now volunteers at the Port Moody Station Museum. The work that CISS does is all about inclusion. “Our folks are out in the community every day, building relationships,” Mahar says, noting the importance of those interactions.

Minister Stilwell agrees. “People living with diverse abilities are making huge contributions to our communities, and British Columbia is better because of it.”


Champion for Inclusivity Receives Medal of Good Citizenship

Moira Stilwell, MLA for Vancouver-Langara, on behalf of Premier Christy Clark, presented Abbe Gates, a well-known Vancouver citizen, with the province’s newest honour, the Medal of Good Citizenship. The ceremony was held on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 in Vancouver.

Launched in July 2015 by Premier Clark, the prestigious Medal of Good Citizenship recognizes individuals who, through exceptional long-term service, have made outstanding contributions to their communities without expectation of remuneration or reward. The medal reflects their generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life. Nominations for the Medal of Good Citizenship are accepted year-round.

Gates will be honoured with the medal for spearheading initiatives aimed at improving life experiences and inclusion for children, teens and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities. Through her fundraising efforts and ability to bring a community together, Gates founded a soccer sporting team and has created social experiences that have empowered people with special needs all over the Lower Mainland and nearby communities.

Her service to community and countless hours of volunteering have been focused on gathering the support, monies and resources required for hundreds of players with a variety of developmental and other disabilities, aged four years and up, to play soccer. Nine years later, the Blazin’ Soccer Dogs and Pups, along with the Rain City Wolves, have provided enriching, inclusive and confidence-boosting experiences for participants.

Gates has also served on the Down Syndrome Research Foundation board and was an effective fundraiser for the organization. More recently, she is is an active volunteer helping to promote autism awareness and the creation of the Pacific Autism Family Centre.

Among her many other contributions, Gates annually mounts The Night to Remember Gala, which provides an annual dance and red-carpet experience to more than 150 young people, aged 15 to 35 years, with development disabilities. As well, she helped establish a social group for teens through the Vancouver Parks board, called Friday Friends. She is now collectively working on establishing the same kind of program for all these young people who are now adults.

Gates is among a select group of British Columbians who will receive the Medal of Good Citizenship.


Okanagan Citizens Receive Medal of Good Citizenship

Premier Christy Clark today presented two well-known Okanagan residents, Troy Becker and Marion Sallenbach, with the province’s newest honour, the Medal of Good Citizenship. The ceremony was held as part of the Canada Day Celebrations, Friday, July 1, 2016, at Prospera Place in Kelowna.

Launched in July 2015 by Premier Clark, the prestigious Medal of Good Citizenship recognizes individuals who, through exceptional long-term service, have made outstanding contributions to their communities without expectation of remuneration or reward. The medal reflects their generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life. Nominations for the Medal of Good Citizenship are accepted year-round.

Troy Becker, a resident of West Kelowna, was honoured for contributions to making his community a safer place and helping to create life-enhancing opportunities that build confidence for people with disabilities.

A professional firefighter and volunteer search and rescue member since 2001, Becker created the Community Recreation Initiatives Society to benefit people with disabilities wanting outdoor experiences like kayaking, zip lining, bicycle riding and mountain climbing. He and his organization also run annual camps throughout the province for various groups like Spinal Cord Injury British Columbia and families with children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

His creativity and dedication to his community help people of all ages and disabilities, including some with life-threatening illnesses, gain confidence. As well, his passion has inspired many others to volunteer and bring joy to the lives of individuals and their families.

Marion Sallenbach, a resident of Winfield, was also honoured for her many years of volunteerism within the community, her selfless actions having a tremendous impact on countless families in the Okanagan.

An active volunteer in the community for over 50 years, Sallenbach began volunteering with the Hospital Auxiliary in Winfield in the late 60’s, her efforts helping to raise thousands of dollars for the Kelowna General Hospital. Ten years later, she helped bring the Red Cross Health Equipment Loan Program (HELP) to Winfield and over the next four decades the impact of the BC HELP program grew, loaning 170,000 pieces of equipment – such as crutches, canes, walkers and wheelchairs – to 94,000 British Columbians in 2014-15 alone.

In addition to her work for the hospital, Marion has also volunteered with the Winfield Community Church, the Red Cross, and the Independent Order of Foresters, through which she has donated her time and expertise in a myriad of ways, which includes helping with the ‘Wheels to Meals’ for seniors, bookkeeping services, and assisting the ‘Adopt‐a‐Road’ initiatives.

Now in her ninth decade, Sallenbach continues to dedicate her time to the community, her volunteer work also complimented by the assistance of her two daughters, Joanne Galigan and Sharyn Fiwchuk making her contributions a family affair.

Becker and Sallenbach are among a select group of British Columbians who received the Medal of Good Citizenship.


Educator and Role Model for Visually Impaired Receives Medal

Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux, on behalf of Premier Christy Clark, presented Marilyn Rushton, a well-known Burnaby citizen, with the province’s newest honour, the Medal of Good Citizenship. The ceremony was held on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 in Burnaby.

Launched in July 2015 by Premier Clark, the prestigious Medal of Good Citizenship recognizes individuals who, through exceptional long-term service, have made outstanding contributions to their communities without expectation of remuneration or reward. The medal reflects their generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life. Nominations for the Medal of Good Citizenship are accepted year-round.

Rushton at the medal ceremonyRushton was honoured with the medal for her inspirational life of service to the visually impaired community, her contributions to families with blind and visually impaired children, and her energetic support for the musical community.

Blind since birth, Rushton is a powerful role model, teacher, and gifted musician. She has volunteered countless hours with the Maple Leaf Singers; and is the director and accompanist for The Tempos, a choir for blind and partially-sighted children, youth and adults. Rushton is the president of the BC Vision Teacher's Association and this year served as chairperson for the Canadian Vision Teachers’ Conference entitled Seeing Beyond the Horizon. She serves on the board of Blind Beginnings, a non-profit that supports B.C. families with blind/partially-sighted children.

Among her many other contributions, Rushton was co-director and accompanist for the Burnaby Children’s Choir, has been a governor on the Douglas College board, and a board member for the Burnaby Hospice Society. In the 1990s she was a Burnaby school trustee and effectively used the role to advocate for diversity and equity in public education. Her contributions in education are recognized through her membership in DKG International, an honorary society of women educators; and PEO, a North America-wide organization which provides educational opportunities for women.

Rushton is among a select group of British Columbians who will receive the Medal of Good Citizenship.


Government Connections

Art Gallery Helps Paint Bright Future for Adults with Developmental Disabilities

The Government of British Columbia has set a vision to become the most progressive and accessible place for people with disabilities in Canada by 2024.

An important part of achieving that vision is collaborating with, and recognizing, community partners and organizations, like the Ladysmith Waterfront Art Gallery, that are committed to making a difference in the lives of people with developmental disabilities.

When the Arts Council of Ladysmith & District opened the doors of the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery in 2006, it became the most comprehensive visual arts organization in the community.

In 2013, the gallery started a unique class for adults with developmental disabilities called Artrageous Splash.

“The social inclusion and sense of pride felt by each student when they complete a project in our class is evident by the smiles on each of their faces when they walk out our door,” said Gail Ralphs, class instructor and vice-president of the Arts Council of Ladysmith & District.

The class – which was named by the artists – focuses on bringing out the individual thoughts and ideas of each artist to support their personal and emotional growth, and preparing them for interactions within the local business community. Participants take part in painting exercises as well as individual and group projects, such as painting murals and furniture.

Class participants also take part in a student exhibition every April where they show and sell their creations. One hundred per cent of all sales are kept by the artist.

The gallery’s goal is to inspire each participant to explore new ideas and put those ideas into action.

When Mark first started the class in 2014, he would only paint in black. Now, Mark loves using colour in his pieces and even sells some of his work which has made him realize – people really do like colour! Not only have Mark’s artistic choices grown over the years, so have his relationships with his peers and his confidence.

The Ladysmith Waterfront Art Gallery is supported by Community Links Connexions (CLCX), an employment training and community support service funded by Community Living BC. CLCX’s training and services assist adults with developmental disabilities to achieve their full potential, find meaningful employment and increase their involvement in the community.

“The experience of making art with others provides an opportunity to build relationships, develop a sense of belonging, and strengthen the social fabric of the community. The participants learn valuable skills through the Artrageous Splash class and are recognized as diverse individuals who are respected for the contribution they make to the community of Ladysmith in their various places of employment including Pharmasave, In The Beantime Cafe, Home Hardware, and the 49th Parallel Grocery Store bakery,” said Tina Fabbro, program co-ordinator at Community Links Connexions.


Paralympian Athlete Back in the Swim of Things

Former Paralympian swimmer Brianna Nelson is making waves in her new position as Communication Project Support with the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development (MCSCD). She secured the opportunity through the Work-Able program, a paid internship with the provincial government for recent graduates who self identify as having a disability.

Nelson, 24, retired from athletics with two silver medals from the London 2012 Paralympic Games and a gold from the International Paralympic Committee World Championships in 2013. Despite these successes, she wasn’t treated as a celebrity around the University of Victoria campus where she recently finished her undergraduate degree in psychology. Even with her Bachelor of Arts, Nelson didn’t feel confident about approaching potential employers outside of the service and retail industry where she had been working. Getting a foothold in the workforce is hard for any recent graduate—more so for those with disabilities.Brianna pictured outside her office

“I personally enjoy a challenge and I thought this would be a good chance to see if I can do this.” After only three weeks in her new position at MCSCD, Nelson still feels a bit like a fish out of water, but the positivity and perseverance that saw her succeed in sports will serve her well. “It’s a good learning experience,” she says with a bright smile.

Nelson is glad that she decided to apply for Work-Able. The internship is providing Nelson with valuable new skills and public service experience that could lead to a permanent position. Last year’s cohort of nine graduates has finished their year-long internship and the majority are continuing in government positions.

Nelson will get a great exposure to government work over the year as she spends three months of her year internship with the ministries of:

  • Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Minister Responsible for TransLink
  • International Trade and Minister Responsible for the Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism
  • Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour
  • Small Business and Red Tape Reduction and Minister Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch

Nelson doesn’t know where her future will take her after her internship is over but staying in Victoria and working in the public service is something she is considering. While her medals are a huge achievement that she worked towards since the age of ten, she doesn’t want them to be the pinnacle. “I want that to be a stepping stone to my work. I want to say that I have done something else substantial with my life and I can be proud of what I have accomplished.”

Like most other recent university graduates, Nelson is finding that making the transition from her last position at 7-Eleven to a professional career—and not her disability—is the biggest challenge she is currently facing. “It’s a bit of a jump,” Nelson admits. However, she finds that her team in the office resembles her former team at the pool in that they are there to support her and want to see her succeed.

“It’s a welcome change to be in this environment where they welcome people such as myself to try these things. I am grateful that I can apply the skills I have.” Nelson’s disability does not affect her ability to do her work, but has faced misconceptions about her capabilities in previous jobs. She is aware that there is still a lack of awareness and understanding amongst employers as to what it means to hire an employee with a disability. For that reason, Nelson appreciates that Work-Able helped to create a very inclusive and accessible workplace and recommends other graduates with disabilities should apply.

“Go for it!” she advises, ready to cheer others on to victory.

Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation and fellow Paralympian, loves Nelson’s outlook. “I know the amount of training and dedication it took for Brianna to qualify for the London Paralympics and to win silver. That is the kind of passion we want to see in the BC Public Service. I know that she has what it takes to go far.”


Technology Helps Rod Tam See the Light

Rod Tam works as a credit adjudication officer in Vancouver but lives in Coquitlam. While commuting is a common part of working in Vancouver, getting to and from work was a particularly big challenge. Tam is partially sighted and night blind, meaning that his commute via public transit was full of hazards that don’t affect fully-sighted people.

“Commuting affects my stress level because I am night blind, and it is dark half the year,” Tam explained.

Tam’s vision meant that he was often guessing what was in front of him when walking as part of his commute on dark mornings or late evenings. One of his coping strategies was to count the number of blocks that he has walked. That solution, however, didn’t stop him from bumping into people or being injured by low-lying branches and other obstacles.

Tam connected with the Technology@Work program through the Neil Squire Society. The Technology@Work program provides assistive technology to help employed, self-employed, volunteer, or imminently employed people with disabilities achieve their employment goals. Most often, the program helps people with accommodations in the workplace but in Tam’s case, they were happy to help with his commute, as that’s part of his work day.

After an Assistive Technology Assessment through the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Neil Squire Society provided Tam with a handheld GPS system, which announces street names, intersections, and landmarks – meaning that Tam no longer has to count blocks as he walks through the city. He also received object detection glasses that vibrate as he nears an object, with the intensity of the vibrations increasing the closer he gets.

“The glasses ease my stress level, which has a positive impact on my work and life in general,” Tam said, adding that in addition to being happier with his commute, he is also safer knowing that he won’t be surprised by obstacles in his path.

“I have to walk alone, and it’s a very long commute. With the assistive technology, I feel a lot better – more confident.”

Since launching in May 2015, the Technology@Work program, through the Neil Squire Society, has served more than 310 people throughout B.C. and educated more than 400 employers on how to make their workplaces more accessible.

“I would recommend this program to others. Definitely,” Tam said before turning his attention back to the work day ahead of him.


Business Matters

PotteryWorks Nurtures Artistic DiverseABILITIES

British Columbia recognizes October as Community Living Month, a time to celebrate the achievements of people with developmental disabilities as fully participating members of our society.

In addition, this month celebrates the organizations and businesses, like PotteryWorks Studio, that make a difference in the lives of people living with developmental disabilities.

In New Westminster, PotteryWorks Studio is an artistic haven that is full of support, opportunities and achievement. It’s committed to bringing out the unique artistic skills and diverseABILITIES of each individual artisan.

Minister of Social Development and Social innovation Michelle Stilwell visited PotteryWorks’ new space today to experience the inspiration, meet some of the artists and see the array of artistic pieces on display.

Minister Stilwell at Pottery Works“I am so impressed by the many talents of these local artists. There are many wonderful one-of-a-kind pieces for exhibit and purchase,” Stilwell said.

“It means a lot for these individual artists to be able to show people their skills and have people purchase their work. It really gives them a boost of confidence and self-esteem, which is exactly what many of our artists need to grow,” said Deidre Blackmore, art facilitator at PotteryWorks.

Whether it’s James’s sense of form and colour used in his paintings and pottery work, Harry’s exploration of Egyptian and motorcycle themes in his art, or Darlene’s focus on her Chilcotin First Nations heritage in her hand-built and thrown clay, the process and products are all unique to the individual artist.

“Over the last 16 years that I have been operating the PotteryWorks Studio, I have witnessed the impact of art and craft on the many artists who have come through our doors. They have learned discipline and focus, to believe in themselves and their abilities, and to work with others,” Blackmore added.

PotteryWorks is supported by the Community Living Society (CLS), a Community Living BC-funded service provider in New Westminster. CLS is dedicated to connecting people with developmental disabilities with the services and supports they need to live full, happy and empowered lives, which is exactly what PotteryWorks is all about.

“Our artists have made real and lasting relationships within their community working in our store and studio. It’s the most profound kind of inclusion, to become part of the everyday fabric of your community,” Blackmore said.


Simply the BEST: Vancity Honoured With Award for Inclusive Hiring Practices

On October 13, 2016, Vancity was recognized for its work as a champion for inclusive hiring by the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI) at their BEST Employment Celebration.

Vancity was chosen to receive the Champion of Diversity employer honour, in particular, for their innovative Workplace Inclusion (Win) employment program for people with diverse-abilities and creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for a BEST job seeker, Hans Ming Hun, who is now a proud Vancity employee and an important part of the Brentwood Community Branch 43 family.

“BACI was started around a kitchen table with likeminded folks, a lot like Vancity, 60 years ago this month. In partnership with BACI’s employment service program BEST, we’ve found a great employee and invaluable member of our team in Hans,” said Ashley Huth, Assistant Branch Manager at the Brentwood Community Branch.Team members from the Brentwood Community Branch at the BEST Employment Celebration

“Hans is a positive presence in our branch. It’s been rewarding to see him open up and watch his list of duties grow. One of the most helpful tasks that Hans takes care of is our AML Sunflowers, which is a time-intensive data-entry task and so important from a compliance perspective. Since Hans has taken this duty over, I haven’t received ONE late or reminder email!

“Hans brings 110 percent to his work, is a valued and loved member of our team and we are just so thankful for him and appreciate the contributions and skills that he brings to our workplace.”

Team members from the Brentwood Community Branch at the BEST Employment Celebration: Ashley Huth, Hans Ming Hun, Amanda Travis and Tyler Jang.

In recognition of champion employers in the community, this event hosted over 80 people including BACI and BEST staff, participants and their families, employers and community partners. The award is something creative made by individuals with diverse-abilities in collaboration with another community partner.

About BACI and BEST

Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI) is a non-profit organization that provides innovative training, development, employment, social and recreational services to over 1,000 children, youth and adults with developmental disabilities and their families in Metro Vancouver.

They now have employment services through BACI Employment and Supported Training (BEST) and within their organization along with services spanning from before birth to adult inclusion. They are committed to creating a better, more inclusive world for people with diverse abilities.

Find out more about the Vancity Work Inclusion Program.