The summer flew by, and there’s a bit of a void being felt around the LiveWorkPlay office, because the summer employment team has returned to their college and university studies.
“There was something about these four,” says Julie Kingstone, Director of Operations at LiveWorkPlay. “They all made each other better and you could feel the positive energy.”
Working out in the community most of the time, but also collaborating closely with the Employment Supports team and Team Lead Jen Soucy, what they all accomplished together was an unequivocal success: 40 summer jobs for LiveWorkPlay youth members! This initiative was made possible with funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services Employment and Modernization Fund. We also benefited from collaboration with local teachers to identify candidates.
“I kept meaning to sit down with the summer team and learn more about why it was going so well,” says Keenan Wellar, Director of Communications at LiveWorkPlay. “It was the nature of their work that it was hard to find the time, so I asked them for feedback after they were essentially finished their work for the season. Here’s some of what they had to say!”*
What did you have to learn?
Things happen fast and you have to be ready to be put into a situation you didn’t expect at the start of the day. I think I got pretty good at it pretty quickly!
I had to learn how much support to give each individual. At the beginning you have to struggle to figure out the right balance of helping and getting out of the way. This is where it was great to be a part of a team and ask for advice.
Interacting with employers and generating opportunities for our members was difficult in the beginning. It took practice and then with a bit of success my confidence shot up in dramatic fashion.
What surprised you?
I was surprised to see how the Para Transpo service that some of our members rely on is very unpredictable and impacts on their ability to get to and from work.
I was surprised by the amount of natural support people are willing to provide at many of the jobs I was involved in. It was great to see the other employees step in to help our members succeed and feel welcomed.
Most of the co-workers were pretty excited to become a natural support in the workplace. Some of our members are non-traditional communicators and I was a necessary bridge to help make those initial connections, but once the ice was broken the relationships usually took on a healthy life of their own.
I overestimated how much the general public knows about people with intellectual disabilities. I want to be a part of changing this and helping the community see the value in everyone.
What did you learn about LiveWorkPlay?
I learned how personalized and how individualized services can be and how much it benefits the person receiving support.
The staff team here lives to put a person-centred approach into practice. They care so much. I have a huge appreciation for what LiveWorkPlay is able to contribute to people’s lives!
The mission statement of helping the community welcome people with intellectual disabilities is so indicative of what LiveWorkPlay is all about. I learned about the organization’s history and I know that they worked hard to become the person-centred organization they are today.
I learned that beyond being a leader in the community in supporting this particular population, this is about something bigger, it’s about the human condition and seeing value in each other as equals. I learned that LiveWorkPlay learns from taking risks, making mistakes, growing, and getting better.
Best outcome you were involved in?
It’s a tie between Kathleen at Cole Funeral Home and Sammy at Precise ParkLink! Kathleen needed two days of job coaching and she was already getting positive feedback from her co-workers and soon became a part of the team. Sammy has amazing customer service skills and he’s a highly motivated worker who is makes a great team member.
My favorite experience was supporting Fred Dixon at the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre. They had such great instincts about how to support an employee while at the same time offering new challenges.
I got to work with someone I had known previously in a different setting, wh
ere he was probably being a bit stifled from being over-supervised, because he was a very different and much more confident person with an opportunity for some independence.
What came naturally?
I think making connections with the members I supported was the most natural part of the job for me. They were all so kind and welcoming, I found it easy to strike up conversations and get to know them. I felt there was a mutual sense of respect and trust.
I think the job coaching role and especially helping to facilitate natural supports was something that came easily to me.
Having a positive outlook and understanding that I would be learning at the same time as helping others to learn.
Why did you work well as a team?
I believe we worked well as a team because there was so much trust and respect between us, and we were all so open to helping each other. I was never nervous to ask my team any questions I had and everyone was always willing to help.
We all brought different skills to the table. We laughed together and we were not afraid to admit mistakes. They were excellent mentors and provided a safety net for issues that were over our heads.
We could see the value in our different experience, perspective, and styles. And we had fun together which helps build a trusting environment.
What did you learn from employers you worked with?
Many of the employers took different approaches to supporting their employees, but it was nice to see how open they were to suggestions in order to help our members succeed. I also enjoyed hearing some of their feedback in terms of how staff morale has increased since giving LiveWorkPlay the opportunity to help match them with great employees.
The employers that got the most out of their employees made it part of their culture to both support and challenge their employees.
What did you learn from people with disabilities that you were involved with?
We all have more in common than what we might think we know from a first impression.
One of the individuals I was supporting had been greatly underestimated in a previous experience with a different organization and employer, to the point that his own family had a lot of doubts about his potential for paid work. He ended up with two paid jobs this summer! His attitude and determination to impressed me and made me want to work harder too.
Probably more than anything they helped me learn a lot about myself, and realized that this field of work can align well with my passions. It was a boost to my confidence and at the same time I feel ready to push myself to be all that I can be.
Never underestimate the capabilities of individuals with disabilities. There is so much potential and the sky is the limit.
What did you learn about the sector?
There are a lot of different views and practices, and I think some agencies could benefit from changing their approach to better value everyone having the opportunity to learn, make mistakes, and have hopes and dreams.
And feel free to add anything else you want to say?
Never have I have felt so welcomed and part of something bigger then myself. Words can’t describe how I feel.
* Because some of the questions I asked had the potential to solicit critical responses of employers or other agencies, I did not associate the responses with the names of individual summer staff employees, and I did not publish all of the responses. I appreciated all of the feedback and will use it to the future benefit of staff and people we are supporting ~ Keenan