The not quite Charlie and his Definite Chocolatey Factory

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“Hi’s, hello’s, how you doins?” Mambo jambo pleasantries for us to connect to people around us. It is guaranteed to spark casual day to day chitchats. A lot of the times when we throw these phrases to people, it stops there and we never get to know them. Then, they get lost in our bin of memories and we live on. Everybody gets their vanilla flavored days.

Ever thought of “Saying hello” as a skill? – A skill that needs practice? Also, how that simple “hello” can go a long, long way. Well, this is where our story begins.

The final hours of the crew’s work week – everybody is excited for the weekend, “Fri-Yaay” as what others call it. All of us are exhausted already and just about ready to jump to our beds except for a single soul – my friend, Gary “The Cleaning Machine” Falcone. He is Mr. Detail and would not stop until the last speck of dust in our work site is obliterated. He is the last one who has enough energy to notice things around us.

Gary then approached me one day and told me, “That guy is working hard!” At this point, being tired and having “Fri-yaay” written on my forehead mode, I just politely brushed his comment off with “Oh yeah he does” without even really looking at what he is pointing at.

Another week has passed and Gary said that again. “That guy is working hard!” as for my response, “Oh yeah he does” with the enthusiasm of a depressed snail.

For the third week, I wore my curious hat and decided to listen intently. “He works hard”, Gary said. Then I (about time) finally paid attention and took note of who he was taking about. He was pointing at this man behind the glass window of Michael’s Bakery, masterfully kneading something and stirring soup and making what looked like a sandwich almost simultaneously – a man on a mission, super impressive! He did look like he was working hard, focused on what he was creating. Perhaps the better term was working passionately.

Gary has always been a hard worker, a passionate worker. I guess something in Mr. Multitasking baker guy resonated in Gary in that, weekly, he would notice him and talk to me about the chef’s work ethic. One day, Gary asked me “Jasper, what is his name?” I honestly answered, “I don’t know, maybe Michael? Since that is the name of the bakery? I am just guessing.”

Gary then responded, “Jasper, go and ask for his name.” I then suggested that since he was curious, then he should be the one asking Mr. Mystery chef’s name. “Can I do that? Is that legal?” Gary anxiously asked. “Of course Gary it is legal (Gary is the guy who will be the last to break any rule / guideline), as long as the chef is not busy and we are done with our job too.”

Gary thought for a moment and said “Nah, You do it Jasper, come on!” I responded otherwise and asked why he won’t ask for his name himself. “How do I do it? Is it illegal?” Gary butted in. At this point, I can see Gary’s genuine interest to meet the chef and, at the same time, his reluctance to connect. Perhaps he was needing support how to start his “Hi’s and Hello’s”. It sank in me too I guess in general, it is kinda embarrassing to ask someone his name out of the blue. It made me think too how to do it, in an age when more acquaintances are made by “Likes, follows and DM’s (direct messages) via social media.” I then had to review how we do it “old school”.

At this point I reiterated enough that “It is legal and I guess it is ok to talk to him, we just have to start somewhere.” I followed up with “Do you want to be friends with him?”

“Yes, can you make him my friend?” Gary bashfully replied.

I said that I can connect them but I feel that it would be better if Gary was the one who will approach Mr. Baker since it is him who is interested. “Gary, I think this is something that you can totally do.”

“Can I? It is not illegal right? Ok, how do I do it? Can you show me?” “Can you help me?”

“Ok Gary, how about we start with a smile, then a wave or a good afternoon?” I suggested. Gary being Gary asked, “In that order?”

So Gary waved at the man a week later and the man waved back. The look in Gary’s face when he reported back to me that Mr. Multitasking baker waved too was priceless. “What’s next Jasper? Let’s practice”

Long story short, we had lots of Fridays role playing this script: “Hi, my name is Gary Falcone and I work with Semiahmoo House may I know your name (cue handshake)”. Gary perfected his lines and waited for the Friday when he mustered enough courage to befriend Mr. Busy Chef.

“Charlie! Charlie is his name!!” Gary excitedly yelled his name to me as hastily ran towards our truck flailing his bucket and broom in the air. (At this point, I have a crew of 5 antsy-borderline upset people, waiting in the truck wanting to go home because it is the end of the work week already.)   We did finish late that day because of Gary’s interaction, but I think it was all worth it. I had to appease the other crew members and explain what was happening, one too many times.

Finally about Charlie,  I thought I could have easily asked Mr. Chef myself for his name but Gary’s eagerness  masked by reluctance was worth the effort to work on and make it a teaching moment and a way to connect to the community.

A year has passed and the 5-minute Charlie visit has been the official way to sign off our week and kick off our weekend.

May 2017 came, Mr. Gary Falcone’s 72nd birthday was fast approaching and we were thinking of a way to celebrate his birthday. The crew schemed to surprise Gary and made a reservation for lunch at Michael’s Bakery.

I finally got a chance to talk to Charlie. I was excited to tell him how much he has become a part of our crew, “The A-Team”. However, before I uttered my first word about what he meant for the group, his crew beat me to it. The ladies and gentlemen who worked for him talked more of how Gary has been very much a part of their Friday. They spoke of how polite and thoughtful Gary was and how he brought them nuggets of happy thoughts like finding a dime or a beer can that we can return to the depot. When I talked to Charlie, he told me about how Gary’s presence was missed when he took time off for his surgery or even a day off or two when he has a cold. Charlie seemed to know who Gary was for us too. My enthusiasm for telling them my side of the story was matched by their version of it. My heart grew bigger as they accurately described the Gary that I know and how much his little joys have touched their lives too. Our Gary is their Gary too.

The Michael’s Bakery team arranged a cozy table for us one Friday after work to surprise Gary and David, as it  was his birthday too. They set us up with the chocolatiest Lamington cake the crew has ever tasted as recommended by one of Charlie’s Angels. We got Gary really good that afternoon as he never expected the treat. Charlie gave Gary’s cake for free and everyone had the biggest selfie smiles.

I also had the chance to meet Charlie’s wife. “We are happy to do things like this especially if it gives people a chance to improve their lives, their confidence and their feeling of being a part of the community”, she added to our short chat.

Before we left Michael’s and said our “Goodbyes and thank you’s”, Charlie came close and whispered to me, “By the way, my name not Charlie, it is Chander, but Gary likes calling me Charlie and I don’t mind. Charlie is a good name too”

By Jasper Macabulos, Semiahmoo House Society

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

What’s your story.

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If you want success as bad as you want to breathe, you will be successful! People are yearning and wanting success. We all want to make more money or have more than we already have right now. But how bad do we really want it? How can we make it a real success story?

The steps to becoming a real success story are not always simple as one may think. If so, everyone would have a success story, everyone would be making more money, or everyone would be starting their own business, etc. But if you want it as bad as you want to breathe, success will not only come but will change your life to ways that you never saw before. There are 5 steps that will help you to become successful.

  1. Find your purpose ~ Find your purpose and true happiness will come. We were all created with a thought in mind and with a true purpose. Finding your purpose will help you live longer and grow stronger. What if we were sitting in a chair expecting it to ride us down the street like a car would. It wouldn’t work, would it? That’s because it’s not the purpose of the chair to take us around.
  2. Write the Vision ~ Writing the vision is the 2nd step to becoming a real success story. In a nutshell it just says that your dreams and vision will come to life. Writing the vision is another word for setting goals for yourself and seeing who you will become and what your real live success story will look like.
  3. Be willing to Fail ~ All real success stories are full of failure stories. Chances are some successful people may have failed at one time or another. Remember, just “don’t quit”. Continue to try over and over again until they become a real success story.
  4. Surround yourself with other real success stories ~ This means continue to surround yourself around like-minded people. If you want to be a real success story, then surround yourself with other people who live, breath and produce success.
  5. Be a positive thinker ~ All people who are a real success continued to believe that they could do anything possible than they believed. Even when the time is down and negative things happened, they still believed that they would be success no matter what the results were.

If you want to have a true successful story, just take the challenge and do it anyways. You will be amazed with the results and it will be very rewarding. It will be worth investing in yourself!!

By Shabnam Khan                                              

s.khan@shsbc.ca

Diversity Is Tranformative

Board

In the organizational context, diversity if often defined in the legal terms of the Canadian Employment Equity Act which mandates employers to remove barriers to employment for four designated groups: Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities, and women. While this type of inclusiveness is very important, I view diversity in its broader definition to include age, gender, transgender, race, ethnicity, physical and intellectual ability, sexual orientation, religion, opinion, social custom, thinking pattern, personality profile, and more.

In my role as Board Chair, I also welcome a different type of diversity on the Board of Directors.  When appointing new board members, I look for different talents, expertise and experience, but above all I look for different perspectives that can culminate into healthy conflicts when discussing issues relevant to the governance of the Society. I know we’ve done our best work when everyone around the Boardroom table has had a chance to present their ideas and voice their points of view. And I know that we’ve done an even better job when these ideas and points of view are divergent.

It is true that it would be more comfortable to agree with everyone on every topic, but not only is this unfeasible, I don’t believe this Society would be what it is today if that were the case. The very genesis of Semiahmoo House Society was based in conflict: the tension between parents of children with developmental disabilities and a system that insisted on institutionalization. Loving families living with disabilities had different notions than government and the medical community about what was best for them.

It’s not that the people in authority had bad intentions. It’s just that they perceived inclusion from the medical model: people with disabilities need to be fixed. Conversely, the families viewed their situation from the social model: disability is a human construct imposed by the environment. I realize that these statements are simplistic given the complexity of the issues. Nevertheless, they serve to prove the point that if parents had not used their inherent diversity to advocate for change back then, our society would not be so inclusive today. People with cognitive disabilities would be even more marginalized and would not have the opportunity to demonstrate that, given the chance, they are capable to learn, grow, integrate and contribute to society.

As a society, we can achieve way more when we embrace diversity and realize that it is unifying rather than being divisive.

Rich Gorman, Board Chair

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. 

The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

Social Power and Reciprocity Create Strong and Diverse Communities

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The Self Advocates of Semiahmoo

Semiahmoo House Society (SHS) staff members work hard to achieve the organization’s End (mission), that “people with disabilities live self-directed lives in the community.” We work hard to support people finding jobs, recreational opportunities, and homes in their local community. This work largely involves SHS contacting local businesses, recreational centres, and home owners/renters to see if they are open to having people who have disabilities as employees, participants, or home sharers. Many are, and they help make our community diverse and strong.

In the work that SHS does, we are not unlike many other Community Living organizations, seeking community-minded businesses and people who buy into our vision of inclusion. However, in the vast majority of the work that we do promoting inclusion, the people we support are the “outsider” we are helping to become part of the community.  In this relationship, the power inherently lies with the people choosing whether or not someone belongs at a workplace, in a gym, in their home. I’ve recently been thinking about how we might turn the power in this relationship around. How can we support people who have disabilities to have more power when it comes to employment, social issues, and housing?

When it comes to employment, having people with disabilities in ownership and leadership positions shifts the dominant paradigm of their “place” at work. While not common, there are some examples that have demonstrated the positives that come from this model. Tim’s Place, a restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is owned by Tim Harris, a man who happens to have Down syndrome. Billed as the “World’s Friendliest Restaurant,” Tim’s Place provides members of the community with jobs and good food. Closer to home, Richmond HandyCrew Cooperative is owned by workers who have developmental disabilities. They make the decisions and share in the profits of their work and hire members of the community to work with and for them.  Both of these examples show people who have disabilities making their community stronger by running businesses that provide services and add to the local economy.

When one looks at the history of civil rights around the world, movements take off when the people most affected lead the fight for their own rights. The Self Advocates of Semiahmoo (SAS) promote the rights of people who have disabilities through advocacy, education, and action. At present they are spreading the word about voting to the people of British Columbia through workshops and presentations. SAS is also an asset to the community as they work on projects that make the world better for all people. A recent example of this is their work making local beaches more accessible by fundraising for beach wheelchairs and working with local governments and business to ensure these beach wheelchairs are available for all local citizens who have mobility issues. SAS holds a position of strength in the community through giving a voice to people who have disabilities and for leading initiatives that make their whole community better.

There are many barriers to finding quality affordable housing in Greater Vancouver for the general population. There are even more barriers for people who have disabilities who are looking for the same thing. Chorus, the affordable and inclusive rental apartment building that SHS build in partnership with The Semiahmoo Foundation (TSF) and Peninsula Estates Housing Society (PEHS), is the first purpose built affordable rental apartment built in decades in Surrey. The fact that it was built because of housing needs of people who have disabilities but supplies much needed housing for the general community gives social strength to the tenants who have disabilities. The tenants now have a place to call home and are in a position of giving back by welcoming friends and family into their apartments.

A few years ago, as part of the collaborative process to renew SHS’s philosophy statement, I conducted some workshops with people we support to find out what ideas we should include in the statement. Invariably, in the many groups of people that I consulted with, the idea that people with disabilities have a right and a desire to give back to their communities was strongly expressed.  In retrospect, this should not be surprising as one of the tenets of good relationships is reciprocity. Imagine always being in the position of having to accept the help of others. Imagine not having the right to give back. Imagine not being expected to give back. We included the idea of “giving back” in our philosophy statement and we strive to support people to give back and to take leadership roles in their community. In employment, social issues, and housing, when all people have the right to give back and are supported to do so, our community is stronger.

Semiahmoo House Society’s Philosophy Statement

 Semiahmoo House Society believes that people who have disabilities should be valued and included fully in their communities, with the same rights and responsibilities as all people living in Canada.

We believe that all people have the right to control their own lives through personal choices about relationships, jobs, living arrangements, spirituality, travelling, and recreational activities, and that all people have the right to give back to their communities through volunteering and helping others. Everyone is entitled to live a happy, full and meaningful life.

We also believe that these rights can be reinforced and protected by making sure that people are connected to and supported by friends, family, staff, and the community.

By Doug Tennant, Executive Director, Semiahmoo House Society

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

 

 

 

 

Vive la Différence!

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The theme for this newsletter is diversity. Diversity is the dichotomy between celebrating the uniqueness of individuals and embracing the collectiveness of community. It is about diverse people coming together and achieving wondrous feats, and as a result making a real difference in the community.

We live in a globalized world. The propagation of technology enables us to connect with people from every corner of the world in a blink, giving the word community an expanded meaning and making boundaries less relevant.  Trying to keep diversity out by building walls, whether they are metaphoric or material, is both futile and ludicrous.

Globalization means that business leaders face increased competitiveness. Smart leaders understand this and they invite diversity in their organization.  Creating an inclusive work environment allows admission to a greater talent pool of skilled, productive and loyal employees who, by virtue of their diversity, can make connections with a wide variety of stakeholders, thereby securing a larger market share and ensuring sustained economic equilibrium.

The greatest barrier for diversity groups to access employment is discrimination. This is particularly true for people who have disabilities. Semiahmoo House Society’s Customized Employment Services break through these barriers by connecting potential employers and employees together. The results have been tremendous with many inclusive employers reporting that hiring a person with a disability was the best decision they ever made and underlining that their new employees, were courteous, took directions well, were conscientious, contributed to the bottom line and promoted comradery in the workplace.

Providing employment to people with disabilities benefits the individual, the organization and society as a whole. Many people with disabilities keenly desire to earn a living and become productive members of society and they should be given every opportunity to fulfill these aspirations. Inclusive employers have an important role because sufficient evidence supports that productive, gainfully employed and independent people with disabilities contribute to the growth of the economy. Conversely, excluding people with disabilities from full citizenship, not only exhausts scarce social resources, it results in an opportunity cost to the overall economy, exponentially year after year.

That being said, creating an inclusive workplace is not as simple as to say, “We’re an inclusive employer because we’ve set some diversity objectives.”  People naturally resist change and discriminate. For successful integration, leaders need to create an inclusive culture by expressing their strong commitment to a diverse workforce and ensuring that this commitment percolates through the hierarchy.

In my next two blogs, I will talk about the origin of discrimination and how it can be overcome and the role of leadership in creating an inclusive culture.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with the words of Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching circa 600 BC:

The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself. The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself. The Way of Heaven does one good but never does one harm. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete.

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

By Louise Tremblay, The Semiahmoo Foundation

Motivated by Love of People

Dorothy

WE SINCERELY THANK YOU, our Semiahmoo House Society Volunteer Team!  Since this agency’s inception in 1958, volunteers have been at the core of its success.  The parents, who felt a need to provide community opportunities and education for their family members, created the embryo that has grown into adulthood as one of the forward reaching agencies in Canada.  They, as volunteers, created Semiahmoo House Society. They were our first Board of Directors with sleeves rolled up literally to make good things happen.  Our present day Directors are no less valiant in keeping us on the path of quality services, advocacy and support.  It takes rigorous work and deep commitment to keep us moving forward into that bright and promising place where we would all like to be.  Thank you to our first friends.

Sprinkled throughout Semiahmoo House Society are lovely people who come from their separate places in high schools, colleges and universities, workplaces, and home, in order to add their brand to the good things that happen here.  They come with enthusiasm and experience that add to the dimensions of the fine people who look to us for support in living good lives, surrounded by good people.  Almost every week, there are inquiries about what would be required in becoming a sterling volunteer at Semiahmoo House Society.  And regularly fine people join us to do what we know best – how we thank them.

It would be remiss to not recognize the amazing staff team who give steadily of their talents and vision as they immerse in best practices to follow the lead of an excellent Executive Director.  We thank him for also being a visionary, collaborating with Board and Staff alike in bringing about the good things enjoyed by us all.  Extra time and lively vision may be above expectation in a regular job requirement, and so when given, are voluntary in nature.  Thus paid staff become volunteers of quality as well.  All turn to you with thanks.

Volunteering love of people, love of work and love of purpose makes this agency what it is and what it promises yet to become.  The good men and women who rely on that love and direction can also rely on our continuing to give as we celebrate life together.

By Dorothy Gurney, Volunteer, Volunteer Coordinator

Dorothy Gurney  is a tireless volunteer who recruits and initiates volunteers to do wonderful work with people with disabilities. Thank you, Dorothy for all you do.

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. 

The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

Attitude, Gratitude

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Gary as sketched by Jasper

Do you remember what you ate for lunch yesterday? How about where you put the house keys? Or the specs you are wearing on top of your head right now? Or your password for your email? Where you parked? Did you flush the toilet or did you feed the fish?  Don’t worry if you can’t because neither do I. There is a laundry list of things or events that we tend to forget every day and it’s a shame that most of them are the most important items in our lives.

This leads me so a short story about a friend of mine named Gary. One Sunny September morning, the crew was having its rounds to the local McDonald’s in Langley. We fell in line as usual; we ordered the same set of coffee as usual;, we sat in our favourite hub as usual and read The Province and 24 Hours as usual. All was bright and dandy and sounded like our typical Monday morning routine until I heard this phrase, “I KNOW YOU!” in a volume a bit louder than the usual, a pitch higher than the usual and a tone more excited than the usual. Then I told myself, “I know that voice!”

It was the voice of our resident septuagenarian, Gary. He was pointing his finger at this man, an older man—I’m guessing he was in his 80’s—with a short silver mane and a snugly knitted sweater, sitting with a woman, enjoying what seemed to be an uneventful breakfast in peace until Gary somehow made it more… well, eventful. I got curious and went closer to eavesdrop at their conversation. Gary repeatedly said, “I know this man!” “I know you!” At that point, I started to worry that the man and the woman were getting uncomfortable at the sight of a tall and slender 70-year old guy getting all giddy at seeing them.

I approached Gary as he was apparently talking to me and he indeed was talking to me, he said, “Jasper, I know this man!” I was ready to apologize to the couple for the suddenness and randomness of what’s happening but the man beat me into it. He calmly asked Gary, “How do you know me?”

Gary hastily responded without a buckle, “You were a bus driver! Last time I saw you was…” Gary then started to look up, and count to himself, trying to use all the fingers that he has. “29 years ago, 1987. Jasper, am I right? Am I right? 29 years ago?” I was just dumbfounded at what is happening and did an uncertain nod as if I did my math. In reality, I didn’t know; it was a courtesy nod.

The man then quickly responded “That’s right! I WAS a bus driver! And I retired sometime in the mid 90’s. How do you know me? And why do you remember me?”

Gary replied with a big grin on his face and said, “Because you were the bus driver when I hurt my right ankle. Here, this foot, my right foot,” said Gary as he raised his pants and lowered his socks to show his formerly hurt limb. “You stopped the bus and helped me to stand up. You said I sprained my ankle from one of the steps of the old bus. You helped me. That’s why I remember you. I just want to say, ‘THANK YOU’ for helping me.” Then Gary just casually walked away as if nothing happened, ordered his usual small coffee with double cream and double Splenda, sat on his usual corner, read his usual newspaper and proceeded with his usual day.

The lady that the man was having breakfast with and I were just watching the whole spectacle unfold in awe.

The 20-year retired bus driver did not have the chance to react to what happened. As he struggled to keep his twinkly eyes from tearing up, he did not even have the chance to say, “you are welcome.” (He did after a while, before we left for our work sites.) I noticed that the woman started crying and jokingly said to her—I can only assume—husband, “Aw, you did one good thing in your life”

The whole 5-minute interaction that I witnessed seemed like a lifetime of my wondering, “Do I remember enough? Have I said thank you enough?” I thought of asking Gary what he eats so that I can have even a fraction of the sharpness of his memory. It made me realize how nice it can be if we can consciously remember events, memories around us or at least try to remember these things that either put a smile on our faces or happiness in others.

Gary continues to teach me every day how to be grateful for even the tiniest bits of our days, whether he found a penny in the lot, a beer can in the bush, or win the lottery. I am trying my best, although it is futile, to consciously make an effort to remember things around me like Gary does. One thing is for sure, this moment that I saw, this moment that made me believe that gratitude and humanity are still alive amidst all the terrible news we get every day and this beautiful moment shared by two great souls nearing the twilight years of their lives is something that I will never forget. Thank you!

By Jasper Macabulos, Semiahmoo House Society

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. 

The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

A Fourteen-Year Dream

michaela

They say “Dreams” do come true.

I believe this, because today twenty young adults with developmental disabilities, both intellectual and physical, are now living in their own apartments and can call this home.  They are all living their “DREAM”. This dream all began about thirteen years ago when Semiahmoo House Society collectively with its employees and Board Members reached out and spoke to families of individuals they supported to gather information and thoughts on where they would like to see their young adults in the future and what would that look like.

Involving neighbours, the community at large, governments at all levels and all those that could and would have a vested interest in a Housing project such as the one they were dreaming about were asked for their input, concerns and visions.

Great consideration was given to making the end product an ALL INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY.  A place where the young, the old, children, people from different cultures and backgrounds, working individuals and retirees could all live together and call CHORUS home.

As the concept of this project moved forward, Semiahmoo House Society, again, invited families of the individuals they supported and the individuals themselves to sit down and brainstorm further, to identify outcomes.

Some of the key outcomes were:

  • a place where individuals would feel at home
  • a place where individuals could and would feel safe
  • a place where the individuals would be supported according to their needs
  • a place where there would be easy access to transportation, shopping, medical and recreational activities
  • a place where the families of the individuals would know that their loved ones could safely, comfortably, affordably and happily live the rest of their lives, if their family was not there to support them
  • a place that would include people from all walks of life in a welcoming environment
  • a place that would meet the desired living arrangements of individuals, be it living on their own in a studio or one bedroom suite, or a two or three bedroom unit to share with their best friend or relative

As this type of housing for individuals with developmental disabilities is on the forefront of new and innovative housing options, moving further away from institutions and group homes, much research and careful consideration was required to fulfill the dream of an All Inclusive Community.

Once the ground was broken, the construction portion of the project was started and all stakeholders were on board, the process of selecting possible candidates for this innovative housing initiative began.

As this was to be an all inclusive community, screening of all residents would be an important part of the process as would screening of the individuals to be supported.

I can only speak at this point on a personal level.  Being an aging parent of an individual with intellectual limitations, physical limitations and some significant medical issues, we needed to be assured that all of these would be recognized and incorporated into the support plan and that the supports would be in place to ensure that she would be safe and happy in her own home.

This process was accomplished by developing life plans for our daughter and the other developmentally disabled individuals who were interested in calling Chorus home.  In their plans, their strengths, weaknesses, abilities, disabilities, likes and dislikes, and friendships were identified, to name a few.  The importance of this process would have a significant impact in providing a community that was all inclusive.

Chorus has not only provided a home for individuals with disabilities, but more importantly they have provided a home for individuals who want to live in a community that welcomes and thrives on diversity.

For us, knowing that the choice we made to have our daughter move in to Chorus was the right one, not only for our loved one, but for us as parents. This cannot be measured except by the joy and happiness that is seen on her face.  When individuals are asked how they like living in their own apartment, with great enthusiasm their response is always  “I LOVE IT”. That speaks volumes.  When you are with them in the halls or the elevator, they greet other residents and each other as if they were best friends.  Always respectful, caring and authentic, interested in each others well-being.

Today I see Chorus and the model it is for an “All Inclusive Community” as an inspiration for other communities throughout the province and country to try to emulate.

I can now say my “Dream” did come true.

By Paddi Robinson, Mother of Michaela Robinson