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Opportunities Fund For Persons with Disabilities


Gary Lund CommunicationsGary's Story

I grew up on RCAF bases across Canada. Home is now split between Red Deer, Alberta and here in Vancouver, B.C.

As difficult as it was for this Air Force kid to know where to call home, it's also been difficult to settle on a career that fully suited me. Eventually, however, I acquired a great deal of professional development in horticulture and arboriculture.

Over the course of 23 years or so in this field, the physical nature of the job took its toll. In the last few years of my horticulture career, I established my own yard & garden maintenance business. But it was really too late - the accumulative injuries to my back and other joints left me unable to work enough to get the business off the ground. This brought me to the point where I needed to change careers, recognizing that this would require re-training.

Through an initial e-mail inquiry to HRSDC, I was referred to a case manager. I completed a number of aptitude, interest, and values tests. Test results indicated that I was suited to a career in the arts (whether visual arts, performing arts, or writing/journalism), or in a career that combined the arts with social interests. My case manager recommended that I apply to the Opportunities Fund program through the BC Centre for Ability to be supported in an appropriate education program.

I determined to apply to the Print Futures: Professional Writing diploma program at Douglas College. The program has a good reputation for teaching, and for students being able to get work after graduation. To take this program, I needed help to pay for tuition, supplies, and living expenses. I applied to the Opportunities Fund for support to cover these costs.

The support from the Opportunities Fund allowed me to do just that - to get the training I needed to be able to find work in a new, non-physical career that suited my values, abilities and aptitude. It paid for most of my living expenses along with tuition.

I attended the two-year Print Futures program, and was one of the top three or four students in the graduating class of 2006. My grades were almost all A's. Now, I am a freelance writer and editor. Much of my work has been for automotive trades magazines such as Collision Quarterly and Tow Canada.

I also maintain the web site for a local non-profit society: the Right to Quiet Society (www.quiet.org). For our college web-writing and design course, several fellow students and I completely re-designed the society's web site. (You can compare the old site at www.quiet.org/oldsite.) Subsequently, the society asked me to continue to maintain their site. You can also view some of my work from school and from the automotive magazines that I write for on my web site: members.shaw.ca/gary.lund.

Additional work has come directly from my experience at Douglas College. I sometimes work with one of my former instructors when he needs an editor or writer to help in his own freelance writing and editing business.

Although my freelance work doesn't yet amount to full-time work with a full-time income, it is gaining momentum. At the same time, by staying free-lance and self-employed, I am able to rest my back when I need to, or take care of medical appointments to deal with my back.

Funding from the Opportunities Fund has allowed me to become self-sufficient again. I am very grateful for the support the Fund provided.