About The Semiahmoo Foundation

The Semiahmoo Foundation supports and enhance the programs of Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization providing quality services to people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Just a Story in a Magazine?


You know those times when something awesome happens in your day?  And you just want to share it?  Not with the whole world, but with someone you think will appreciate it?

Since you all understand and value the importance of people telling their story, I thought I would share what happened today.

I got a call this morning from a grandfather of a 14 year-old boy with autism.  He was desperate to find help for his daughter and grandson.  After listening to his story, which by the way was heart breaking and due to a broken system,  and setting him up with direction and resources to guide his tough journey ahead, I asked him how he got my name?

Oh man, this is the best part of the story.

He was sitting in a hospital waiting for an MRI.  He picked up a magazine, Thrive.  He told me he read an article about a man named Alex Magnussen.  And for the first time since his grandson was born, he felt hope.

He went home. Then, he went back to the hospital and stole the magazine!    He made a call to Alex and left a message. He questioned himself and wondered if he should have called Alex.  The article mentioned Semiahmoo House Society. So, he want on the website and found my name.

A random story in a random magazine that happened to be on a table in a hospital and gave one person in the world hope. I don’t think there is any better evidence about the power of people telling their story.

When I told the grandfather I knew Alex, he was thrilled.  He asked if I would call him and thank him for being brave, for being a leader and for publishing his story.

I just got off the phone with Alex and I don’t think I can put into words the impact this story had on him.

Every so often, I—maybe we all do—meet people who are resistant to people with developmental disabilities publicly telling their stories.   They may have a few valid points when stories are related to tokenism  or to make an agency or system look good or consent. But do people really know why they are sharing their story? I usually make efforts to hear their side and usually try to have people think about the difference between stories for another agenda and stories that support social change.

This story I will hold close to my heart and use it every time I meet someone with this perspective.


Nolda Ware, Manager of Centred Person Practices

UNITI is the partnership of three affiliated non-profit societies that work together to provide inclusive community services: Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and The Semiahmoo Foundation.

Semiahmoo House Society provides quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families. Peninsula Housing Estates Society provides affordable and inclusive housing that reflects the diversity of our community. The Semiahmoo Foundation assures that UNITI has the recognition, relationships and resources to support an inclusive community. Together, we’re stronger!


Embrace Your Qualities and Your Strengths


It can be easy to appreciate your strengths—your sense of humour, your generosity, or your analytical skills. And it is also easy to get down on yourself for having various personality traits you perceive as weaknesses. Maybe you are quick to anger or always running late. Instead of getting down on yourself for your weaknesses try instead to reframe them as something positive, as traits that make you uniquely you.

  • Make a list of all your strengths. Include the big ones that are huge components of your personality, like your patience, all the way down to the small things you are good at. See how many great qualities you contribute to the world.
  • Now make a list of all your weaknesses. Write down things you don’t like about your personality or you feel are negative traits.
  • Look at your list of weaknesses. Think about ways you could see those weaknesses as positives. For example, say one of your weaknesses is that you think you talk too much. You could reframe this to a positive as, “It’s easy for me to express my opinion.” “I’m too sensitive” could be reframed as, “I have empathy for others.”

Stay true to yourself. To appreciate and accept yourself, it is important to know who you are. It may be helpful to identify your personal values. Knowing what is important to you and making decisions based on your personal values helps you be authentic and appreciate your true self. Make sure your values are your own and you are not simply taking on the values of your friends or family. Figure out what is important to you.

  • Explore which values are important to you and write them down. A concrete list of your values may help you recognize when you are being inauthentic to yourself and your values.
  • You may feel like other people may not like you if they see the “real” you. It may be helpful for you to explore these feelings with someone you trust or by writing in a journal. Determine when you feel most yourself and when you feel the need to pretend to be someone else, and explore the differences between those situations.
  • If you feel you cannot be yourself around certain friends or family, perhaps because you fear being made fun of, then it may be a sign that you fear rejection about revealing your true self.
  • The first step to changing your behavior is noticing when you do it. Pay attention and later, spend some time reflecting on what triggered your behavior in a particular situation. It may take a while for you to feel comfortable enough to be your authentic self around other people. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t do it right away.

Avoid comparisons. Comparing yourself to others can leave you feeling discouraged and judgmental. Remember, you generally see only a piece of others’ everyday lives (particularly on social media). Comparing yourself to someone will only set you up for disappointment and feeling bad about yourself.

  • Measure your growth by comparing yourself to who you were in the past instead. For example, think about your life 10 years ago. Has it changed? Have you acquired new skills, new relationships, or left dysfunctional life patterns behind? If you feel you have stagnated, take some steps to make some positive changes in your life.
  • You can also look at your life now and imagine what you would like it to look like five or 10 years in the future. If you dream of getting a promotion at work in a few years, for example, what can you do today to start making progress towards your goals? Working toward a goal can help you to feel more self-worth and in control of your life.

 It’s never too later to start living your own dreams!

By Shabnam Khan, Family Counsellor




Feeling Seen, Heard, and More


For the last sixty years, Semiahmoo House Society (SHS) has provided quality services to people with disabilities and their families and has continued to re-invent its services to ensure that people experience their best possible lives.

In the process of ever rethinking our services, our leadership team realized that people we support did not often have access to professional counselling services. Therefore, they decided to embark on a pilot project entitled, Guidance Counselling Services, as the title suggests, to provide guidance to people who are grieving the loss of a loved one, going through a difficult time, dealing with addictions, facing an important decision or just needing to speak to someone.

A very important part of the pilot project was to determine how to staff the position and ensure that the counsellor acted in ways that were consistent with SHS’s philosophy of person-centred thinking and respect.  Fortunately, we didn’t have to look too far. It just happened that a long-time employee, Shabnam Khan, who also had her own successful counselling practice in Surrey, came forward and expressed an interest to integrate her professional practice into her work at SHS. So, we made her an offer, and, fortunately for us and the people we support, she accepted without hesitation.

Being a Personal Development Worker herself, Shab knew that participants struggled with life’s challenges like anyone else, but she was surprised to learn that some of them had been grieving for years, without having their anguish subside. Family members and friends were reluctant to speak to them about the difficult events, because they did not know how to introduce the subject and were afraid to create more hurt. “People had nowhere to go with their grief and felt isolated,” says Shab. “People can be vulnerable when they experience death. One person I know lost three loved ones in one year. That takes a toll on anyone.”

Shab, determined to perform her new role and help people, went to work and established a referral and intake process that would ensure people received the services they needed in a confidential manner. Her counselling services would address relationship building, communications, feelings of anger, poor self-esteem, sadness, conflict resolution, coping with stress and anxiety and planning for the future. After she launched the program, people booked appointments and came to tell their story in the safe space that she created for them.  Shab said, “It’s really important that the counsellor sees the person as a person and listens without judgement and bias. What the counsellor is really doing is having a conversation to facilitate life planning for the person. If done properly, this process enhances self-esteem and improves relationships and communications.”

The project went underway and the feedback was positive. People looked forward to sharing their stories and related that they felt seen and heard. Staff, family members and home share providers were impressed with the positive changes that occurred in them as a result of counselling. One participant stated, “It felt good talking about stress and other things.” Another said, “It was easy to talk to Shab, because I felt comfortable and I felt I could trust her.”

The Guidance Counselling project was a huge success and people said they wanted more of it. As a result, we will continue to provide counselling services to people supported by SHS. Please share this blog to inform people that this program is available to people who need it. For more information, contact Shab at s.khan@shsbc.ca.

By Louise Tremblay, Director of Development at UNITI

UNITI is the partnership of three affiliated non-profit societies that work together to provide inclusive community services: Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and The Semiahmoo Foundation.

Semiahmoo House Society provides quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families. Peninsula Housing Estates Society provides affordable and inclusive housing that reflects the diversity of our community. The Semiahmoo Foundation assures that UNITI has the recognition, relationships and resources to support an inclusive community. Together, we’re stronger!


People are Leaders

Beach wheelchair b

Semiahmoo House Society (SHS), a UNITI partner that exists to support people who have disabilities to live full and valued lives in their communities, turns 60 this year. Much has changed since 1958, when the accepted practice was that children with intellectual disabilities were sent to institutions and did not participate in public schooling or the life of the community. Over the past 60 years, support for people with disabilities has progressed from custodial support focused on segregation and “safety” to a much better understanding that people have the right to be fully included in their communities with equal opportunities to contribute through volunteering, employment, and other ways of sharing their gifts and talents. At SHS, our Board, after extensive consultation with the community, creates ENDS to describe what the organization exists to achieve. The broadest END is that “SHS exists so that people with disabilities live self-directed lives in the community,” and cascading from this broad global END are the following three sub-ENDS:

  • People are valued members of society
  • People decide how they live their lives, and make informed choices
  • The rights of people are protected

Each of the sub-ENDS has that further refine what SHS exists to achieve, including statements such as “people have intimate relationships,” “people have paid employment opportunities,” and “people decide when to share personal information.” The ENDS are not meant to be stagnant and do evolve as we learn more about best practices in inclusion. Hence, “people have paid employment opportunities” was added as we understood that people are successful when they have true employment and are treated fairly by employers. This statement on employment is why we created WISE Employment Solutions and moved away from long-term training for people with disabilities that did not result in true jobs in the community. Looked at in their entirety, the ENDS of SHS describe what a good life looks like when barriers are removed and people are supported to achieve their dreams. This video demonstrates what a good life looks like and features people who are claiming their rightful place in the community.

The latest addition to our ENDS is an interesting one: “People are leaders.” This statement was developed by the Board for SHS as a result of the realization that all civil rights movements should be led by the people most impacted, which in the Inclusion Movement should be people who have disabilities. This new ENDS statement means that SHS will support people who have disabilities to become leaders in their communities. Here are some of the ways that we are doing just that:

Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo

This group of advocates who have disabilities pursues project that have a benefit for the whole community. They brought beach wheelchairs to White Rock Beach, created an “Equally Empowered” presentation about human rights that they present to school-age kids, and sponsor all-candidates debates during elections. SHS provide support staff so the self-advocates can do their thing and be leaders in their community.

Quality Assurance at SHS

Self-advocates have also taken on a leadership role in quality assurance at SHS. Each year, self-advocates review how SHS is doing in achieving its ENDS. This year they will be interviewing groups of people from all of our services to see how we are doing with ENDS 2: People decide how they live their lives, and make informed choices. Their findings are compiled into a report that is presented to the Board so they know how SHS is doing in achieving its ENDS.

Sharing the Message of Inclusion

Self-advocates have taken on leadership roles in other areas. Alex Magnussen, who is featured in the video above, has given two TEDx talks and has sat on numerous non-profit boards. The Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo recently co-hosted a regional meeting for the provincial project, Re-Imagining Community Inclusion. 80 people attended and were able to hear first-hand from people with disabilities what needs to be done to create a community where all people are valued. Self-advocates have also travelled to Ottawa for accessibility consultations and are taking on speaking roles at many different conferences and events. One of the ways that SHS supports this is by sponsoring an inclusive Toastmasters Course at our Treehouse.

SHS will continue to work hard to achieve our ENDS and we are excited that we are part of a shift that will see people with disabilities become the leaders in claiming their rightful place in the community.

By Doug Tennant, UNITI Executive Director

UNITI is the partnership of three affiliated non-profit societies that have existed for decades: Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and The Semiahmoo Foundation.

Semiahmoo House Society provides quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families. Peninsula Housing Estates Society provides affordable and inclusive housing that reflects the diversity of our community. The Semiahmoo Foundation assures that UNITI has the recognition, relationships and resources to support an inclusive community.

Together, we’re stronger!

A Tribute to You, Dear Volunteer

Near sea wall

It is always a pleasure to speak of the volunteers at Semiahmoo House Society.  They come to us as enthusiastic and dedicated people, who wish to add their hands in service open to all who come our way.

Our Student volunteers –some who have already given extensively of themselves in service to others—are bright and willing as they connect with young adults of their own age.  They bring a freshness and sense of you can do this to those with whom they participate.

A gentleman and a lady who live in their homes with others, each have a friend who comes every week to share time with them and brighten their day.  We all like to have a personal friend who takes time to regularly visit and spend an hour or two with us.

The children at the Daycare enjoy the assistance and friendly reaching out of their volunteer staff person.  She adds to their growing up experiences in her own loving way.

What of the volunteers who stand and sit beside those who participate in the many other day and support programs?  They all make major contributions to the lives of those around them—teaching, encouraging, kindly assisting, partnering in community service.  The list is long.  Some have shown that their friendships with those they have come to know here are important to them as well.  They keep in touch even when they have been away, just as friends do.

Whatever space you are asked to fill, or create, in your service at Semiahmoo House Society, dear wonderful Volunteer, we thank you and may I say sincerely, we love you.

Dorothy Gurney, Volunteer Coordinator at Semiahmoo House Society

Semiahmoo House Society is a partner in UNITI. Together, we’re stronger!

For more information, please go to: www.uniti4all.com.


Gala 2018 Pic

I’ve come to realize that effectiveness in the role The Semiahmoo Foundation plays in the community is largely dependent on the quality of our relationships, with trust being at the center in the development of meaningful connections. Without trust, people would not pay much attention to what we say and do, and it would be impossible to do our work. This is particularly true when the work is as abstract as ours. We don’t have the benefit of demonstrating our value through the delivery of services. We only have ourselves, and the way we carry ourselves.

With trust, we embrace diversity, engage in respectful dialogue and achieve greatness. If I take, for example, the type of collaborative work that happens when planning events, trust is evident and felt among the members our team. Together, we are committed to achieving a shared outcome. We pull together; we are comfortable with each other; we feel safe and secure; and we can be vulnerable. By being vulnerable, we can be ourselves and give our best.

In addition, in a non-profit environment with limited resources, trust makes our team more productive. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree with everything we say and do. The mutual respect we have for each other allows us to evaluate our different perspectives and incorporate them in our life-long learning journeys.

Having trusting relationships is precious. In my experience, most people in our line of work are inclined to trust easily. However, if the trust is lost, it’s difficult to get it back. One small event, a few inconsiderate words can quickly erode our sense of trust. It can take a disproportionate amount of good deeds and time before trust and respect can be restored again. Trust is the kind of bank account that requires constant deposits.

Each one of us is individually accountable to inspire trust. It pays to be introspective and ask ourselves whether or not our words and actions are congruent with the trusting and respectful relationships we are hoping to develop, starting by nurturing a set of values, such as honesty, vulnerability, integrity and inclusiveness. Then, something magical happens. Like-minded people congregate and garner the power to transform the world.

By Louise Tremblay, Director of Development with UNITI

UNITI is the partnership of three societies, Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and The Semiahmoo Foundation. For more information, please go to www.uniti4all.com


Living at Chorus by Madeleine Wieczorek


The Chorus apartment building has been a dream of Semiahmoo  House  Society for over 10 years and now that dream has come to life in the form of a beautiful building in South Surrey.  It’s on property that Semiahmoo House owns and is right across the parking lot from the main building.

There are 71 units in the building, 20 of the units come with support for people like me, with disabilities.  The other units are for the general public, including some seniors and young families, a nice mix of people.   I know people in the building, some who go to Semiahmoo House programs with me and other people too.  My mom says it’s like living in a college dorm, where you know the people down the hall.

Chorus is in a good neighbourhood, close to shops, transit, parks, a library, swimming pools and movie theatres.

I moved in two years ago and live in my own studio apartment, which I like to call my Penthouse because it is on the top floor and has high ceilings.  It has a dishwasher, washer and dryer and my own patio.   Some of the furniture came from my family home but some of it I bought myself.

I do my own grocery shopping, cook my meals by myself most of the time,  do my own laundry and clean my apartment.  I take out the garbage and compost and recycling too.

When people ask me if I have a roommate or if I live on my own, I say I live with my cat.  I am glad it is a pet friendly building.

I am proud to say that I live as independently as possible with support.  I like the support workers who check up on us and help when we need them.

I now feel more like a grown up in some ways and in other ways I am still like a kid.  I like to watch Disney movies, ride my scooter, blow bubbles and play with my dollhouse.

My family and friends are proud of me for living in my own apartment.

I am happy and really like living at Chorus.  I think there should be more buildings like it for my friends who want their own place too.

Madeleine Weiczorek

Our Journey as a Family

su and mady

Madeleine and Susan

I’m sure that those of you who are parents would agree with me when I say, “I would do just about anything for the sake of my children, anything & everything to make sure they are safe , to provide opportunities for them, to nurture & encourage them to be the best they can be, to take care of them.”

I think it’s a life-long commitment and it doesn’t stop when they are no longer children and are big enough to make their own lunch, do their own laundry, get a job, and drive a car or whatever defines grown up.

Almost 30 years ago, Ted & I moved across the country from Toronto to Tsawwassen.  One of the reasons, was we didn’t want our children to take a school bus to school.   Our so-called neighbourhood school was being closed.   How could I put a small, scared 6 year old,  an odd little duck,  as one specialist described her, a child with no definitive diagnosis, but with definite speech & language difficulties, odd behaviour and anxiety, how could I put her alone on a bus just to get to school?  The thought really bothered us, and then, what would happen when her baby sister needed to start school?

So when an opportunity came up for a career move, we did just that: moved across the country to be close to my sister and her young family.  She assured me there were lots of schools in Tsawwassen, no need for school buses. She found a good doctor, good day care, and the weather was better too.  Seemed like a good idea to us and it also meant I could be a stay-at-home Mom or perhaps just work part-time.

Our children called Tsawwassen home for almost 20 years. They they went to the local schools and participated in the usual activities of childhood, including Brownies & Guides, sports, music & dance lessons & Sunday school. During that time, when she was 11 years old, after many tests & specialist appointments, we finally received a diagnosis that Madeleine was on the Autism spectrum, high functioning, but on the spectrum and with a mild developmental disability. So now we knew what we were dealing with and started making plans to try and get some extra help.  The school system at the time was good and we enjoyed working with several good Special Education Assistants and the Resource Room teachers at South Delta Secondary School (SDSS).

However, we didn’t fare so well with help from the government. Autism funding didn’t exist back then. We learned about wait lists and falling through the cracks and not meeting the criteria for limited services.

Madeleine attended some specialized training courses at Kwantlen College and Vancouver Community College but the work placements didn’t result in real jobs at the end of the program so her future looked bleak.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about the black hole there is at the end of the road when children age out of the children’s system, turn 19 and become adults.  Out of school meant out of luck.  If we thought that there were limited opportunities for our daughter as a teenager, there were even fewer as an adult.  If it wasn’t for Special Olympics, and a small Social skills group offered through Delta Continuing Education, that met twice a month, she would have had very little to do in the way of recreation.

Delta Community Living Society accepted Madeleine and a friend for a summer recreational program but turned them away in the fall, saying they didn’t have the capacity to accept new clients living at home. Basically, they had their hands full with their current clients, people they had been working with for years providing recreational, employment & housing services.  There were services and programmes for others with more severe disabilities or limitations but not for our odd little duck.

From a personal and professional point of view, this was very disappointing, to put it mildly.   By now I was working part-time with children and youth with special needs and helping their families connect with available services and programmes offered by other agencies and associations:  Zajac Ranch, Easter Seals, Special Olympics, Semiahmoo House.

Semiahmoo House seemed to have lots going on for youth and adults, a full range of services and programs, year round, day programs, Rec and Leisure, including holiday trips, employment services and training, housing.

When we heard that Semiahmoo House was hosting meetings to talk about housing options for adults with  developmental disabilities it sounded like an opportunity too good to pass up.

Attending meetings and joining in discussions often raises questions and many of us expressed our worries and apprehension about the future.   As ageing parents, we knew we couldn’t and shouldn’t have our adult children living with us forever but where could they live if they didn’t need the full time services of a group home or if home share wasn’t available, or if there was no basement suite?  What were the options  ?

I remember going to one of the early meetings at Semiahmoo House, while we were still living in Delta.  The parents met in one room and our adult children went off to another room.   The goal for both groups was to brainstorm ideas about housing, what was important, what was necessary, what should be included, how to make the dream of living in their own place come true.    When the two groups reconvened to compare answers, it was remarkable that many of the ideas were the same.

  • People want to live in their own neighbourhood, be close to transit, shopping, recreational places, job opportunities, close to family and friends
  • They want to be safe and feel secure
  • They need private and personal space
  • Help and support should be available as necessary to help maintain a semi-independent way of living

As parents we are sometimes regarded as experts on our children and rightly so; we know them intimately… we’ve lived with them forever.  However sometimes it is important to step back and listen to our children, to honour their own ideas and dreams.  I remember asking Madeleine where she wanted to live and she said, “in an apartment above the garage”.   Great answer, but at the time, we didn’t have a garage.  Was this her way of saying, “I want my own space; I’m ready to go, but not too far away.”  We knew the time was coming to make some plans for the future.

So, seven years ago, with one of our children, Emily, out the door and on her own, we decided to move from Delta to Surrey in order to obtain the kind of housing we needed for our family.  There were very few options available in Tsawwassen as we considered downsizing whereas Surrey, specifically south Surrey/White Rock, had lots of townhouses and condos to choose from in good neighbourhoods, with easy access to shopping and services and good transit too.  And of course moving to South Surrey meant Madeleine would be able to check out the amazing programs and services at Semiahmoo House.

We weren’t the first family to move away and I’m sure we won’t be the last.

We found a nice townhouse, thanks to our good realtor, and immediately got involved at Semiahmoo House.  Madeleine joined Dance and Musical Theatre classes, went on some amazing holiday trips, received some job coaching and with their help, landed her first part-time job.   We continued to participate in the meetings about the exciting new apartment project that was now in the planning stages.

We knew we were one of about 100 families who were seriously interested in the 20 spots available. So, it felt almost like a competition, getting up at dawn to stand in line for Kindergarten registration or something.    Detailed personal support plans were developed after consultations and meetings with the potential tenant and the family as well as reviewing information and references from other family members and friends.  And because Semiahmoo House follows a Person Centred practice, Madeleine’s concerns and interests were always considered important.

We spent two years alternating between hope and worry.

But, ultimately we received the good news, she was selected for an apartment and she could choose the size of unit and the location in the building.   All we had to do now was watch and wait as the shovels hit the dirt and the building grew from floor plans and design drawings to brick and mortar.  Her brand new studio apartment was going to be lovely and much nicer than the one her sister has in the West End.

We knew if Madeleine was chosen to live in one of the supported units at Chorus, we would have to give up our hard fought and limited CLBC respite/life skills funding.  The funds would be pooled to provide support as needed for the residents in the apartment.  I know Madeleine misses the outings she enjoyed with her respite workers but what is in place now for her and the other residents,  in the form of  a couple of life skills sessions every week and daily check ins, is a good trade off and, for the most part, works out well.

At first, I admit, we worried a bit about isolation and how she would cope living alone.  She is not one to initiate activities but will often join in if asked.   I mean being alone and enjoying your own company is one thing, but being lonely is not good.  So how would this living on your own work out?

There is a nice amenities or common Room in the Chorus apartment building and for the first year, many of the Semiahmoo House supported residents held their birthday parties there and invited each other.  It seemed like every month there was a party going on.  Special activities were planned too by staff or family members, such as craft nights and movie nights so the social calendar was busy.   As the residents become comfortable and established, they are now being encouraged to take a more active role in planning these activities.

To try and encourage a sense of community, and getting to know others in the building, some events have been held for all the residents:  coffee mornings, Barbecues, etc. Starting this fall, there will be some low key, informal music events in the common room.   There is a nice mix of people in the building from young families with children to seniors and everyone in between.  And although, as in all rental buildings, people come and go, there are some really nice people who live there.  Madeleine has recognized a couple of people who go to our church and we avoided a potential disaster at the passport office when one of the agents at the office was able to finalize the process, without expecting us to make an extra return trip when she saw Madeleine’s photo and said, “Oh that’s Ok , she lives in my building, just down the hall.”    Being recognized and accepted in your neighbourhood is a good thing.

We have always been very much aware that Chorus is a unique and innovative model of housing and we have explained to our sons and daughters how important this place is and how everyone has to work together to make sure it is a successful role model.  So we have encouraged them to open their apartments for tours, to talk to the press, to make presentations at board meetings and all candidates meetings, to spread the word about the benefits of living at Chorus.

As parents, we have an informal network of support for each other and have met a few times on a more formal basis to discuss various issues.   Some of us worked very hard to try and obtain rental subsidies.  Although we were not successful through BC Housing (they’re a tough nut to crack!), we did have the support of our local MLA Gordie Hogg and eventually secured some special funding for 10 years from the province which goes directly to Semiahmoo House and which they in turn, use to lower the rents of the 20 tenants they support.

Hopefully over the next few years, the provincial government will realize the need for more affordable rental housing and will come up with some reasonable solutions.  However I’m sure there will always be a need for parents, self -advocates and social service agencies to be involved to ensure that something really happens.

So how are things now?  It’s been 2 years since Madeleine has moved into her own apartment.  She has more self-confidence and proudly says she loves her apartment.  Speaking with some of the other Moms, I think the adjustment was probably harder for us, than for our all–of-a-sudden, grown up children.

We still live in the same neighbourhood, just a block away.   Now I don’t necessarily recommend being quite so close. It’s handy and convenient, maybe a little too close sometimes.   But she’s not over at our house all the time.  Sometimes when we ask if she wants to come home with us after church for lunch, she says no, she’s fine.  And on the other hand, when she is planning to go out, she will often call and ask if I need anything and then she is happy to pick it up and bring it over. So, she’s a good neighbour.

We talk or message each other almost daily and see her at least a couple of times a week.  I’m still a carpool Mom and coach for Special Olympics. So, some things never change.

Madeleine acknowledges that she although there are many things she can do on her own and she enjoys her independence, she will always  need some support. For example, making medical appointments and advice for budgeting and making significant financial decisions.

Recently,   some of our friends have commented on how much more relaxed Ted and I are, now that we are both retired.   Although we still enjoy a family holiday with both our girls, every year, we now can go away on our own as a couple and do more of what we want to do.  Our menu is more varied too. We can cook fish and eat other vegetables besides  carrots!   Yes, we have more free time, but it’s more than that. We are able to enjoy our free time, because we are relieved.

We feel relieved because our daughter is living in a good place. She is happy and safe with built-in support, 24/7 if necessary and we know this can be a long term arrangement. There is balance between alone and quiet time and organized activities with others in the building and outside community.  She is happy to live in a good neighbourhood in a smoke free, pet-friendly building with other tenants selected by a property manager who understands the philosophy of an inclusive community.

As I said in the beginning, as parents we will do almost anything in the world for our children, but maybe sometimes, the best thing we can do is nothing and let them do it themselves.

As her parents, we will continue to live in the neighbourhood and be available and involved as long as possible.  It’s been almost 7 years since our move and we still keep in touch with a few good Delta friends. Ted and I are happy to call Surrey home and so is Madeleine but you don’t have to take my word for it… She’s going to tell you herself.

Susan Wieczorek

Click here for Madeleine’s story.


Along for the Ride: What a Learning!

A Tema rod3

So I have this story in my head that’s been rolling around for a week now. The need to share it surfaced, and I got this bright idea.  How about share it with the Directors Team while they are about to spend the weekend working hard on the future of UNITI? You guys do enough hard work that I thought a story to make you smile would complement the weekend of work ahead of you all.

Over a week ago, I had the privilege of being invited on a ride along with Jasper and the guys.  I had a fleeting wonder of the intention of my invitation, but easily let the thoughts drift off and just got ready to enjoy my day.

The day was full of wonders. Being there to enjoy a day in the life of the guys and be witness to their experiences could produce many stories, but there is one story that stands out.

It is the story of learning people’s stories.  It is the story of relationships.  Throughout the entire day, Jasper and each of the guys told me stories of everywhere we went, everything we did and everyone we met.

First stop: the back alley of IHOP to find the manager Debbie while she was on her smoke break, and she was.  We pulled up beside her. She smiled, opened her arms and said, “Hey guys I’ve missed you!”  I stepped back to listen to the conversation. Everyone was chatting, filling each other in with what they had been up to in their lives. The chitchat wrapped up with hugs for everyone. “Get back here and see me real soon. I love you guys!” were Debbie’s departing words.

Second stop: MacDonald’s in Langley on Fraser Highway. Picture the long table with bar seats in the middle of the restaurant with four other people (strangers to me) sitting there with a handful of empty seats.  They were obviously waiting for someone.  Yup! They were waiting for Jasper and the guys, who comfortably took their seats.

After introductions, I got cozy and again tried to sit back, watch and listen.  Though it wasn’t easy as I was dragged into a bunch of random conversations.

Rod, a semi-retired gentleman, immediately began razzing and joking with Gary with their obvious inside banter.  I have known Gary since 1991 and have never seen him smile and laugh like he did with Rod–ever.  FYI, Rod was invited by the guys to the Semiahmoo House Society’s this year… and he came.

Bill, the elder musician, shuffled his way throughout his friends, with nods, mumbles and a couple of stories.

Jodie, a young lady with a disability, quietly filled us all in about her week and the Canucks’ recent game.

Lyn, Jodie’s support worker, shared stories and pictures of her dog.

Then, there were the three MacDonald’s staff (can’t remember their names).

Staff #1 flopped herself down beside the group. She was having a bad day and was reassured and comforted by her friends.

Staff #2 whispered something into Jasper’s ear as she was worried about one of the guys.  She had his back!

Staff #3 joyfully bounced to the table so happy to see everyone, and more chitchat about life began.

What unfolded after this initial gathering of friends I wasn’t prepared for: the learning about the deepness and richness of these friendships that all began at the long table in MacDonald’s on Fraser Highway.

According to Lyn, Jodie never had friends and barely spoke to people until she met this group of friends. Hanging with these friends at MacDonald’s for morning coffee is now one of the most important parts of her week.

Rod told me that Jasper and the guys have brought so much joy to his life.

The concern and questions about people who weren’t there. Where are they?  Are they okay?

How much they all knew about each other. How much they cared about what was happening in their personal lives.

This was not about people in the community making the lives of people with disabilities better. It was not about people with disabilities contributing to the lives of the people they meet.  It was about natural, genuine relationships among people finding space to come together and be together on a regular basis, in the same place, with the same people.

I could go on and on about with this story, but I think you get the picture.

It is profoundly critical that the work we do mindfully creates opportunities for people to have these kind of relationships in their lives.  Which brings me to Jasper.


As David Pitonyak said, “It’s about who shows up in people’s lives not who’s on shift.”  Who is attentive, aware and present.  And who is real.  These awesome MacDonald’s relationships did not develop on their own out of thin air. They were fostered by Jasper–he may not agree.  I believe he was hypervigilant to the opportunities to build connections, his radar always on.  Every day he walked into that MacDonald’s, he was intentional about how he could bring people together and then stepped back to allow natural friendships to flourish.  And he keep going back.

There are joys and also fears about this story. The joys are obvious I think, but the fears are real.

Can you imagine if the guys were told, “You can’t go there anymore because it’s too far. Go to a closer MacDonald’s from now on.”

Can you imagine if the guys were told, “Hey, you now have these friends in your life. So, you’re on your own to maintain them. No need for paid support anymore.” When in reality the support to maintain these relationships is critical, for a variety of reasons.

Can you imagine if the guys were told, “This is no longer part of your program, so it won’t be happening anymore.”

I was left with these can you imagines and the frightening impact systems can have on people. We know this. We fight for this, but to see and experience it was a whole different story.

There! My story is no longer rolling around in my head. I know through more thought and reflection I could share much more of what I learned that day.

I am grateful to Jasper and the guys for inviting me into their world for a day.  It has reinforced what I believe and what I believe UNITI believes.

Cheers!  And enjoy the weekend.

Nolda Ware, Manager of Person-Centred Practices

UNITI is a partnership of three affiliates: Semiahmoo House Society, Peninsula Estates Housing Society and The Semiahmoo Foundation. For more information, go to www.uniti4all.com.

Why I Give to Semiahmoo House Society


In September 2003; I came to the Personal Development program of Semiahmoo House Society. Through the 11 years at Personal Development; I have learned a lot of skills and have taught drama/journalism with Denise K. in 2010. I did do a three year practicum at Southridge Senior School, with the drama department; having to write a lesson plan for each time. I was in the ETS program in Newton for two years. I was volunteering every Thursday, plus did a whole month in 2016, covering for Michelle T; which had given me an opening to apply for a part-time front desk associate. I was hired in April 2017, under Michelle’s supervision and now Diane’s. The thought came to me, to give back to the Personal Development program, by giving x2 donation to the program, through the TSF.

By Mark Yuen, Front Desk Associate at Semiahmoo House Society