“Would I be any good? Could I really help anyone?” Traci Barrett, CLBC Facilitator in Quesnel, asked herself these questions when she began her career in community inclusion nearly 20 years ago.
“Growing up in a small town, I had never been around people with developmental disabilities,” she says. “So when I started working at a local job education training program, I honestly felt nervous.”
I cried the happiest tears
It was only a matter of months until Traci found herself feeling quite differently. “I remember sitting through my first performance review and just being totally overcome with emotion. I cried the happiest tears,” she says. “I knew this is exactly where I needed to be, and that I would actually learn far more from the individuals I was helping than they would ever learn from me.”
Traci continued on as a family support worker for a local agency, and also offered respite support in her home every weekend.
In 2016, Traci joined CLBC and now heads the one-person CLBC office in her hometown of Quesnel. With a population under 25,000, this makes Traci the go-to person for individuals and family members looking for community inclusion supports.
“I’ve known some families for years and have built really great relationships all over our town,” explains Traci. “Honestly, I’ve had opportunities to leave, but I’ve chosen to stay. I raised my son here, who is now 21 and studying environmental engineering at UBC, and have found it to be very family friendly. I think one of the biggest positives about Quesnel is the sense of community. I love that people recognize and look out for each other, that our CLBC folks are accepted, and to a point, protected. No matter where you go in Quesnel, there is always a friendly face.”
It’s an honour to serve people in my community
Although small communities often lead to closer connections, there are also challenges. One of those challenges can be fewer resources available relative to our province’s larger cities.
“There are some difficulties to being the only facilitator in the area,” says Traci. “Sometimes there just isn’t a service provider nearby who can offer what someone needs or has the capacity to take on a new individual. So that’s when we get creative.”
That’s why helping families find and use existing community programs in their area is an important part of Traci’s work.
“One great example of an informal support would be the Special Olympics. They are so much more than sports competitions. They offer an amazing variety of opportunities for people, especially for transitioning youth, to make friends, get out in the community, and participate in fun events. I’ve even seen it help family members connect and provide respite for each other.”
Reflecting on her career thus far, Traci expresses her appreciation. “I am grateful to everyone I’ve met and had the honour of supporting. They are such gifts. And their resilience is a beautiful thing.”
As Traci identifies in her story, finding resources to support people to be included and involved can be a challenge, especially in a smaller community. But there are tools that can help:
- myCommunity BC is a new online map that identifies inclusive and accessible places in communities across B.C.
- findSupport BC is a searchable, online database of resources for families of people with disabilities.
Both sites, supported by CLBC through partnership with the Family Support Institute, also allow visitors to suggest resources and places that should be added to the list.