French lyrics cheerfully accompanied by the beat of Jazz music escape through the speakers of his i-Pad. Closing his eyes and smiling, he swings his body to the rhythm of the music and says in pure bliss, “Paris”. Manny reveals his dream of going to The City of Lights someday, where he could fully attend the performances of his favourite jazz singers and musicians. After Paris, his journey would continue all over the world, indulging his senses in the full menu of cultural delicacies.
For now, Manny is content to enjoy the Vancouver Art Gallery, attend events all over Metro Vancouver, scoot the White Rock Pier and sun himself on the beaches of English Bay. He gets to his destination by bus or on his scooter. “He researches events ahead of time on his i-Pad and then plans his route,” says Sylvia Hoeree, Acquired Brain Injury Program (ABI) Manager. “He knows more than anybody about the events that are happening around town. He’s a worldly man who’s not afraid to explore.”
Eight years ago, Manny Ravelo survived a stroke; he was only 44 at the time. The stroke left him with mobility issues and expressive aphasia. He has a great comprehension of what is going on or what is being communicated. He has speech, but his expressive aphasia makes it difficult for him to verbalize the words.
He overcomes by resorting to strategies to get out the words, which he can clearly visualize in his mind. His strategies include writing down a few letters of a key word or drawing pictures of what he is trying to express and allowing his interlocutor to suggest meanings that he confirms by repeating the words or that he denies by going back to the drawing board. He repeats the process until he is heard, without letting any frustration.
Since he has been attending ABI in 2009, Manny has become an accomplished artist. Sylvia explains, “One day, Manny communicated to me that he wanted a brush and some paint. I gave him the items and he started to paint beautiful pictures right away. What’s amazing is that since he has become an artist, his speech has improved.”
Manny is inspired to paint by whatever he thinks and feels in the moment. One day, he took the tram over Hell’s Gate, and from high above the water, he received inspiration which he articulated in future paintings. “The beauty of nature inspires Manny to paint,” says Sylvia. “When he feels blue, you can sense it in his paintings. He loves colour and he’s not afraid to use it.”
Manny never runs out of activities to do. In addition to painting and going out all over Metro Vancouver, he likes going to a Starbucks that is adjacent to Chapters. He enjoys a cup of coffee and reading a book. He makes good use of his iPad to keep himself informed and do research about his next journey, all the while listening to his favourite international music and songs.
Manny is a remarkable man with a peaceful aura. His resolve and creativity have allowed him to communicate, live and dream. Sylvia looks at him affectionately and expresses, “Manny, your gentleness, your art, your curiosity and your love for life make you an inspiration. I am so proud of you. I hope that all your dreams come true. I hear they have very good coffee in Paris.”
Manny’s art is displayed on the walls of the Newton facility and The Treehouse and is available to purchase. For more information, please contact Sylvia Hoeree at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Louise Tremblay, The Semiahmoo Foundation
Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community.
The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.