My path to self-advocacy
My success started at RISE. RISE stands for Real Integration through Supportive Employment. Since I started with this program I’ve learned to be successful. I’ve come to meet good friends. I’ve dreamt of being independent since I moved from Armstrong. Being independent makes me feel like I have control of my life. If it was not for the staff and friends at RISE, I might have not come this far. I feel real good about myself, knowing that I’ve got the support that is needed to get my career started.
Independence means living on my own, getting a job and doing well at what I do. It also means going out with friends when I want to. Hanging out with the people from RISE brings us together, and we all feel like family.
When I started at RISE, I was offered the position of Lead Hand. Being lead hand means taking responsibility for the program, seeing that coffee is ready, clocking myself in when I arrive and out when I leave and unlocking cupboard doors and lending a hand when it’s asked of me. I help mentor the guys with the computer keyboarding and help with counting out their change. I am also expected to be responsible in looking after the program when staff members are away or at meetings.
I took interest and pride in creating my very first personal calendar. My computer skills, I got them from taking a computer course at the University of the Fraser Valley. It helped me a lot to take the course, for it gives me self esteem knowing that I can access a computer and know many different programs. I am even in charge of typing out closure letters for our program. As a matter of fact, I typed and printed this story out!
Since I have started with RISE, I have been able to hang out with friends, meet new people, and connect with the community. Meeting people from other programs gives RISE a good name. The guys all look up to me for help which makes me feel needed. I admire them too. We have our jokes, and I’m known as the king of comedy and the king of rock and roll. Other members of RISE have made me a part of their lives outside of the program, and that makes me a part of their community.
I remember the day we all worked as a group tidying up around the RISE building. Staff are good team players when it comes to leading, and with all of us working together, we got the job done. While we were doing our duties we had pictures taken of us tiding up the grounds. It was hot and sunny that day.
We have all learned life skills in RISE, and I mentioned one day that I wanted to live on my own, and support myself with my own job. So staff guided me in applying for a job experience at Little Caesars Pizza to practice my skills. It was for eight weeks and it was well worth putting the time and effort into learning more transferable skills, for my next job.
The boss was the owner and the supervisor was supportive and treated me as an equal. When I was working, I learned to knead the dough, meet new coworkers, and the staff I was working with taught me a lot about how to make the dough and the ingredients that were needed to make a pizza.
The ingredients required yeast, flour, water and oil. That was a change for me because I had never made pizza before, until someone taught me how to do it. With all that I learned I felt very positive about myself. Now my life was taking off to a great start. I was even taught to roll the dough out by machine which I took interest in. I felt like I really belonged somewhere. Making my first pizza gave me satisfaction, and I knew I could be independent.
The next good thing that happened in my life was when Nancy helped me find employment. I was offered an opportunity to work at Valley Autohouse in Chilliwack. The employer’s name is Frede Laursen. I met with the employer for the first time in the interview. It was a success and that’s when I started work on the first Saturday of the month. The fact that I was given a chance to prove my skills to my employer and to be accepted within the company, made me feel great. My job at Valley Autohouse includes; delivering customers to their destination, washing and vacuuming cars, and make deliveries to other companies.
The next step in life was planning out meals which I wanted to try out on my friends at the program. I found that it became another success for me. It was a pleasure to see my friends enjoy my home cooking. I enjoy cooking for friends whom I admire so much. Learning to cook made me confident, and I knew I could be o.k. in my own place. One day I would love to cook for my girlfriend at my apartment just to try out my recipes. RISE taught me the right life skills for me to succeed.
I emailed my facilitator, to inform her that I was working on life skills, and invited her for lunch, and I was preparing it! I was really pleased to know that she enjoyed the meal. After that, looking for a place to live became my next goal. She emailed me back and informed me that she was going to have a meeting with my sister, and the supervisor. They all met together, and my sister wasn’t too keen on it to start with. After a while my sister slowly realized that I needed to be independent, and that’s when she got used to the idea of me living on my own. I didn’t move out on bad terms, but I had to prove that I could stand on my own two feet.
Connecting with my facilitator was a big step for me. She helped me a great deal just finding out where my goals were going to take me. She came across two or more apartments, which Nancy and I proceeded to look into. We made a few calls to see if the suites were still available or if they had been rented out yet. There is one place I really loved and that was Windsor Pines. It is a very quiet place and the laundry is on the first floor just down the hall from me. Looking for a place takes time and a great deal of planning and searching. It feels good to have my own place, be independent, and do things on my own. I came a long way to being independent. Finding the right place is important; a place that that is quiet, safe and full of good neighbors is what I was looking for. I found the right home for myself and I love living there on Cook Street. This makes me feel positive about my life. I had the right people to help me. Getting support from friends helps me to stand on my own two feet.
Within two weeks I was making my first meal for myself. Getting help from friends makes moving a lot easier and it also gives me support. Learning to ask for help has made my life easier. The staff from Independent Living program is also a huge help, they were there to assist me on moving day.
Now the fun starts when I made connections with Rob and the Community Kitchen Program. I feel that I’m doing more than I have ever done. I’m very grateful to all the programs that supported and believed in me. Those people gave me my start in the next chapter in my life; if not for them I would still be doing nothing.
I’ve faced a lot of struggles in my life and most of the time it turns out to be ok in the end. Everyone faces struggles at one point, even our staff have struggled in their lives too. But at the end it all comes up as a bed of roses. My ultimate goal was to have my own place in life and I have that now and I’m proud of myself for not giving up on the idea. It feels good to be wanted by people who really care. It’s people like the staff who made me what I am today. I’ve proved to myself that I can do it, so others can see that I have faith in myself and that I’m following my dreams. I believe if I can make it in life, others can too.
I have also joined a group called People First. We have regular meetings where we discuss having our own voice and becoming advocates for ourselves. I feel empowered by the group, and I am now an “independent liver”.
My life seems to be better and brighter than it has ever been in years. Thank you everyone including RISE for all your support.
Real Integration through Supportive Employment (RISE) was developed in the summer of 2010 by the Chilliwack Society for Community Living as part of CLBC’s Employment Initiative.
Inside Voice is published in each issue of The Citizen. If you are interested in writing for this column, please call Chris Rae at 1-877-660-2522, or email email@example.com.