All in a day’s work
By Randall Anthony
For employers in the service industry, finding motivated staff is a constant challenge. But the management team at the Wok Box in Surrey may have discovered a key to overcoming that challenge: by focusing on Andrew Csyani’s contagious enthusiasm, admirable work ethic and great potential – rather than his developmental disability – they’ve found a committed, long-term employee.
For Andrew, having a job that he likes makes all the difference. On Thursdays and Fridays, he takes public transit to the popular restaurant on King George Highway where he started as a bus person. “My job was cleaning tables, sweeping floors and being polite to customers,” he says. “I always say, ‘Hi. How are you?’”
A recent graduate of the Douglas College Culinary Arts program, Food Handling Level 1, Andrew has now been promoted to cooking some of the Wok Box’s famous stir-fries, something he says he enjoys very much.
While his enthusiasm and hard work have made him a valued employee at the Wok Box, he was initially connected with his employer through an employment service. Community Living BC supports employment that help people with developmental disabilities make the most of their strengths and abilities. The employment service, Milieu, works with businesses to match the skills and interests of individuals who want to work with the staffing needs of their company.
The program, founded on the philosophy of inclusive employment, provides individuals with developmental disabilities the opportunity to work at jobs they enjoy, be paid real wages and feel valued as employees. For Andrew, having a job provides some financial independence, the self-esteem that comes from a job done well, and the opportunity to enjoy the company of people he wouldn’t otherwise meet.
Andrew is very clear on what is required to be a good employee. “I need a good attitude, and to do my best. I stay focused, and don’t get distracted,” he says. “My boss says, ‘You’re a star – you work so hard.’ That makes me feel proud.”
Andrew is just one of thousands of people with developmental disabilities in British Columbia who have the ability and desire to work. Like most people, they view work as an important part of life – a portal to a sense of belonging, satisfaction and a way to be develop friendships and be social.
CLBC supports the concept of inclusive employment, which is founded on the idea that community workplaces should reflect the makeup of the people who live in the community. The agency is working to ensure that every person with a disability who wants employment has the opportunity to be employed.
For both employers and people with developmental disabilities, making that connection can be the beginning of a very rewarding relationship. Unlike many of his co-workers in Vancouver’s service industry, for example, Andrew isn’t dreaming of a breakthrough movie role. Though he’s working hard to achieve future promotions at the Wok Box, when he’s at work, he is exactly where he wants to be.
Asked about his goals for the future, he says: “I’d like to keep working here. I like the work. And the people are really nice.”