I found writing this article challenging, which seemed strange to me, since I have always so wholeheartedly believed that we do exactly what we say we do…we go above and beyond. So then, why was it so hard to think of a single story to encapsulate this? I finally realized that my role in Quality Assurance has been so bird’s eye and broad in terms of the organization overall that I am rarely directly involved in the personal stories of how we affect people’s lives every day. My story, then, is really about the first year I began at SHS in 1994.
I was hired to build a new service area that the Board had envisioned. I was told that people wanted a Recreation and Leisure program: dances, movie nights, bingo, maybe a yoga class. As I began to pull in feedback and ideas from self-advocates, parents, the high schools, and people that we didn’t already support, it became clear that what was needed out there was far more. Parents needed after school care so that families could pay their bills. Teenagers needed a place to hang out with their friends. People wanted to sing, act, dance, cook, and be on stage. They wanted to go out for a beer, hike mountains, play electric guitar and go camping in the summer. They wanted everything everyone wants in life: options and friendships.
With every new idea came the need for more staff, more resources, more vehicles, and more money. I hesitated with every request before I approached our leadership team, knowing the limits of a non-profit organization and the complete lack of government funding for a program of this kind. Every request would mean the staff at Semiahmoo House would have to juggle, flex, stretch and bend to make it happen. And they did. I was continually met with excitement and empowerment to build exactly what the community wanted and needed, and Semiahmoo House vowed to find a way to make that happen. The “Taste of BC” and other major fundraising events blossomed from this need, and so began a new journey for the organization as a whole.
I had never experienced this in my career. I was amazed to see a Board without red tape and barriers, and excited to work with a team that wholeheartedly supported that the community and families were the ones leading the direction of this enterprise. No one ever questioned whether something was a good idea. The only question was “If this is what people want and need, how can we make this happen?”.
I’ve long since left that role, but watching it change and grow with its creative team ever since has only continued to reflect the character from where I get my pay cheque. This place makes it happen when and where it needs to happen.
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.
By Casandra Fletcher, Semiahmoo House Society