Sarah and Andrea’s Story: one family’s journey toward community inclusion

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CLBC recently interviewed mother and daughter Sarah and Andrea, who live in Fort St. John, about how they have used both CLBC and community supports to improve their lives. Sarah had reached out to her facilitator, Neil Paulson, about their successes, which they graciously also agreed to share with others.


What are the activities you do each week outside of your home? 

I ride my horse Victory, and sometimes I take lessons. I also go to a Christian Young Adults Group sometimes. I like to go to our cabin in the mountains with my family, where we go quadding in the summer and skidooing in the winter. I also visit my cousins in town, and my friend who lives out of town. Also my friend who lives close to me.

I really like going to the day program at (Ft. St. John Association) Community Living so I don’t have to stay at home by myself, or go to my Mom’s work all the time. Community Living has good things to do, and I like the people there. Sometimes if I am tired I have a home day, and watch TV in my pyjamas. But mostly I am excited to go to Community Living. I also take piano lessons. I walk around the block for exercise and bring the family dog along. Her name is Maggie. I also go to bible camp every summer. I like to shop for new clothes and earrings at the mall and at Winners.

Sarah (Andrea’s mother):

What services is Andrea receiving from CLBC? 

Andrea is receiving monthly respite funding, a supported employment program and she regularly attends the day program at the Fort St. John Community Living Centre.

How did Neil work with you and Andrea to find the right services?

I had approached the local college while Andrea was in high school, but there wasn’t really anything suitable for her to transition to after graduation. I basically had no idea what funding and program options were available for Andrea, and how to access them. The college had referred me to Neil, who gave me reams of information on federal and provincial funding and programs. His kind, thoughtful approach to navigating the tricky emotional waters of answering pages of probing questions was a life saver for me. (Thanks Neil! You really do make a difference.)

Once Andrea started receiving her PWD funding, about a year after graduating, I started looking at work options for her. Neil connected me with the local community living agency here in Fort St. John. After receiving a thorough interview regarding her interests and abilities, Andrea was added to the wait list. I had the pleasure of sitting in on the interview and learning things about my daughter that even I didn’t know!

I was also able to attend a Chamber of Commerce luncheon that featured companies involved in the supported work program. It was very moving as managers/owners of local companies shared the value of how the clients in this program had impacted and changed their work cultures. There were even some tears, which you don’t often experience at a business event.

Because of a downturn in the economy, there were no work opportunities for Andrea until recently. I had talked to her about attending the day program, but entering a totally new environment without knowing anyone was too overwhelming for her. It proved quite a struggle to keep Andrea safe, occupied and challenged along with my work and life responsibilities, even with friends and family pitching in. She started feeling like everyone else had work and purpose in their lives except for her.

Once she started the work program and connected with a few of the staff members, she decided to give the day program a go. She absolutely loves it!


Andrea, tell us about your job and what you like about it.

I have had two jobs shredding paper. Shredding paper is not my favorite, but I loved visiting with Rebekah who was helping me through the work program at Community Living. I am starting another job at a kid’s store where I can fold clothes, which is great because I am really good at folding clothes! 

Have your job or activities helped you make new friends? 

Only with Rebekah who was helping me with the work program. Hopefully my new job will make me more friends. My activities haven’t made me friends much, but I am sure they will in the future.


We understand your family is active in your community through your business and church. What community supports is Andrea using?  How did you find out about them? 

Andrea uses the Handi-Dart bus three days a week to take her home after the day program. I learned about this service through Fort St. John Association for Community Living.

How has Andrea’s life improved from your perspective?

Andrea now has something to get up for every day. Having her week scheduled out in advance creates security for her, and the day program gives her a social community where she feels valued. It is so good to see the sparkle back in her eyes that she used to always have when she was in school. I catch her humming and singing to herself at home all the time, and didn’t even realize it had been missing until she started up again.

How has Andrea having support helped you and your family? 

As a parent it is not enough to just provide food and a roof over your child’s head, you want them to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. As parents of a child with a disability, we have learned that we need help – we have learned to be open to the generosity and caring of others, and this in turn has not only made things easier on ourselves, but has enriched Andrea’s life in ways she would not have received without their input and efforts.

Between school, family and friends Andrea has led a life full of adventure, challenges, love and fun. After graduating, the challenges and fun aspects in her life dropped significantly simply because it was not possible to provide her with the steady social and learning environment she loved so much.

Fort St. John Association for Community Living has reintroduced those areas back into her life. It is a tremendous relief to no longer be pulled between personal responsibilities and meeting all of Andrea’s needs as well.


What do you do for fun with your friends? 

I go horseback riding with my cousins, and I like to play board games and watch movies. My one friend has lots of animals so I help her with chores, and she braids my hair and we talk a lot. I like to just hang out with my friends too. 

Your mom shared a picture of you riding your horse, Victory.  How long have you been riding?  

I only started riding three years ago, but I am pretty good at it. I take lessons with my cousins from our instructor Esther. She is very good and is a better teacher than my mom. I have only entered one show, the Rose Prairie Fall Fair, but I got fourth place. Victory used to be my Mom’s horse but she gave her to me because Victory loves me and knows I am her owner. I go out and visit her in the field every day. I am going to go in more shows next year, but my mom has to teach Victory to canter first, so she is safe for me. I like how free you can be, and when I trot I like to be able to rise up and down in the saddle (it’s called posting). I won the Equestrian Award at the Community Living AGM awards this year. 


What would you like to see for your daughter Andrea in the future? 

(CLBC facilitator) Neil has suggested building support for Andrea for the future, so I will be pursuing the idea of engaging others in a micro-board. I expect this to be a work in progress but recognise that it is an important long term goal, and will be one way we can acknowledge and honor the people who care about Andrea and invest themselves in her life.

Andrea is very eager to secure fulfilling employment as well, which we would also like to see for her. This is one area that felt impossible for me to develop for Andrea, and I really appreciate the assisted work program for tackling this. I know Andrea is capable of contributing in a work environment – she is an amazing housekeeper at home, and I never worry about the animals going hungry or being uncared for because she takes serious responsibility for them – but she does need extra training and assistance before she can safely and meaningfully engage in an unfamiliar work environment. We are looking forward to the Community Living job fair coming up in the near future!


Do you have goals for the future?  If you do, would you like to share a few of them with the people reading the article?

I have a lot of goals for the future. To be a mom is one goal. To be a professional horse jumper is another. I also would like to go on a missions trip to Malawi, Africa next year. I would like to have more friends, and my dream job is where everyone has fun, and there is work that I like to do. I love kids and babies, and also animals. Some day I would like to live in my own suite, like my friend has. I check out new houses in the paper all the time, but so far I have found none that my parents want to move to that has a suite for me.

Employment supports in your area

Interested in considering employment opportunities in your area? Learn more about employment in general by clicking here.

Contact your local CLBC office here to discuss what’s available in your community.

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