My first tour of the programs provided for people with disabilities by SHS was about two years ago. I particularly remember stopping at one of the houses for people with severe disabilities and being offered tea and cookies. The atmosphere was friendly and comfortable. It was clear that a genuine home had been created for the people who lived there. The warmth, understanding and compassion shown by the staff was palpable, as was the understanding and respect for the individuals despite severe restricts in their ability to communicate. Everything from the personal decoration of their rooms to the pleasant furnishing of the home spoke of people who were being cared for, not institutionalized.
During last year’s picnic at Peace Arch Park I witnessed all the activities (the music and dancing, the pie eating, the barbeque) and all the families present supporting their sons and daughters…and being supported in turn by the staff of SHS and by students from Southridge and the wider community. It was really heartening to see the enjoyment had by all and the inclusivity of the event.
Buying some Christmas gifts this past year from the store off 72nd street, I saw how staff and people with disabilities were working together to provide meaningful services and create attractive gifts for others was inspiring. At the sales counter the person with a disability was clearly an engaged partner in serving me, the customer, and was supported to complete a useful task that was entirely within her capacity.
En route to the Inclusion BC conference this year in Nanaimo, I was on the same ferry as Lise Boughen and the contingent from SHS. Just watching Lise and her colleague interact with the group, enjoying the day with them, chatting and laughing was a pleasure. The way in which they greeted Peter and I so warmly spoke volumes about how SHS treats the people in its care. The trip was clearly an “outing” of a group of friends heading off to enjoy themselves. The quality of care shown was further highlighted at the conference as SHS staff helped to ensure that individuals attended the sessions they wanted, had an enjoyable boat trip and sat together at the dinner on the Saturday evening. No one was left out.
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 Jan Holt, Board Member Semiahmoo House Society