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Opportunities Fund For Persons with Disabilities


Steven at Our Community Bikes bike shopDebbie's Story

I'm local to the lower mainland of B.C., having grown up in Tsawwassen.

When I graduated from high school, I took a course in hairdressing, but I quickly learned that I didn't want to do that as a career. I worked in the service sector as a clerk at a convenience store, and as a server for a local chain restaurant.

None of these jobs seemed to really be suitable to my likes, however, so I went back to school in the hopes of becoming a medical office assistant. I was 6 weeks away from getting my diploma when I ended up in a coma and was hospitalized.

Once I was discharged and stable enough to continue my career development, I finished studies in website design, film production, and graphic design, which were all more interesting jobs to me, but I couldn't find paid work for any of them. It didn't help that due to my disability, I experience constant pain, which sometimes makes it hard for me to stay focussed.

Still motivated to find my place in the work world, I took the career exploration program at a local employment agency and that's when I realized that what I really wanted to do was work as an Employment Counselor. What I really wanted was to get a job that involved helping other people find meaningful employment.

This was the best decision I ever made. I visited the YWCA where I met a very helpful case manager. I explained that I wanted to go back to school and did he know of any funding that I might qualify for other than a student or bank loan? He told me about the Opportunities Fund and helped me complete the application package. He was always very encouraging and supportive of my goal. I was successful in getting Opportunities Fund sponsorship and began my 6-month Employment Counselor diploma program.

When I neared the end of the program, I still needed to complete a practicum. After investigating a number of different employment resource agencies, I ended up choosing the one that I am now working at as staff! I feel that I learned more in the 4 weeks of my practicum with my employer than I did in the 6 months of the diploma program I took.

I knew even after the first day of practicum that it was the place I wanted to work at, even though they weren't hiring at the time. I never once thought of applying anywhere else.

During the last week of my practicum, I was encouraged to apply for a Resource Room Facilitator position that became available, and the rest is history as they say.

With my current employer, I've also worked as an Employment Service Coach. I assist clients in finding employment using different resources. I conduct mock interviews to prepare clients for informational interviews as well as actual job interviews. I help clients learn basic computer skills, such as setting up e-mail accounts and using electronic attachments. I help to prepare applications for financial assistance if they decide to go back to school as well as prepare material for the employment readiness workshops.

My life has completely changed since I started working here. If it weren't for the Opportunities Fund sponsorship, I would probably still be on provincial disability benefits, taking any job I could just to earn some extra money and keep busy. I feel that I am finally doing what I am meant to be doing. I wake up each morning excited to go to work and be around such amazing people. Sometimes I still can't believe that I work here!