Work B.C. celebrated six of its clients on Sept.23 with its second annual Celebrating Diversity event, held at Gabi’s Fairytale Cafe.
“We’re celebrating the word diversity, the idea of diversity, and the success of diversity tonight,” said Terri McLeod, a rehabilitation consultant with Work B.C. “Disability, or differing ability as we know it, is just another difference, like cultural ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. We recognize that by embracing differences, embracing diversity can be a valuable source of personal inspiration and insight, insight that hopefully leads us to become more tolerant, patient, and accepting people by witnessing the diversity of our fellow man.”
Those being celebrated were individuals who have shown success in the workplace over the last 12 months.
Success varies for each person, depending on their abilities. One might be able to work a couple of hours a week, another person might be able to do fifteen hours a week.
McLeod says it depends on what their passion is, and what kind of jobs are available for them.
“We’ve got two self-employed people with disabilities that have been doing self-employment, and sometimes self-employment is a really good fit for differently abled people.
“They can control their work environment, they can control what they do and when they do it.”
Kim Keriaff, one of the six clients celebrated, shared her story.
In December of 1984, she suffered a spinal cord injury, breaking her neck on the fifth and sixth vertebrae. At the time, she was enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program st Selkirk College.
During her rehab, she met with a counsellor who was also in a wheel chair. The counsellor had also tried going for the ECE program, but didn’t make it, and said if she couldn’t make it, Keriaff probably couldn’t do it either.
“At that point, I was really crushed, because it was my passion,” she said.
Fortunately Keriaff has a mother who doesn’t take no for an answer.
“I ended up moving back to Castlegar a few years later, and she came into my bedroom and said ‘What are you going to do?’ and I said ‘Well, I’m going to watch TV.’ She said ‘No, what are you going to do with the rest of your life?’ and I said ‘I’m going to watch television.’ She wouldn’t hear of that.
“She was saying ‘You need to do something with your life.’ I said ‘I wanted to do the ECE but was told that I couldn’t.’ She said prove that you can.”
Keri thinks events like this are needed.
“I think it’s important to let people know that everybody has something to give if you just give them a chance,” she said.
The event also celebrated local employers, community groups, and individuals who have hired or supported people in the community with diverse needs.
“You have come forward and invested in the wholeness of our community,” said Tim Payne, executive director of the Arrow & Slocan Lakes Community Services and Halcyon Assisted Living Society. “You have fought the naysayers and you have offered your expertise and time in a manner that benefits and includes everyone, and in doing so, you have demonstrated the true meaning of being inclusive. Thank you for that.”