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An Employer’s Guide to Inclusive Hiring

For many job-seekers with disabilities, the proliferation of online applications is a major leap forward. Job-seekers with vision, mental health, and mobility issues frequently find remote job-searching more comfortable and accessible than pounding the pavement. There’s also the added bonus of not needing to disclose disability immediately, increasing the chances of a selection process uninhibited by an employer’s perception of disability.
All is not well in the hiring world, however. Perplexed employers proclaim themselves to be disability-friendly on their applications, but still find that relatively few candidates with disabilities apply. Meanwhile, everything from the application, to the interview, to the pre-employment testing can quietly exclude qualified candidates. Since we know that people with disabilities comprise a mostly-untapped pool of worthy candidates, we’d like to present a few solutions that are simple to implement and easy to maintain. The Alberta Human Rights Commission specifies that employers have a duty to accommodate short of undue hardship, but we’d prefer to draw your attention to the thousands of clients who have walked through our doors—clients who are ready, willing, and able to work. If employers want to make the most informed hiring choices possible, we recommend considering the basic principles of inclusive hiring, which benefit employers as often as job-seekers.

The Application: Keep it Simple (and Accessible)

Job applications can seem straightforward and simple, especially to those designing them, but three out of five job-seekers claim to feel confused by a typical application, whether because the instructions are unclear or because the forms are excessively long.
The first and best design principle of job applications is to keep them as simple as possible. Any nonessential procedures should be reserved for a later point in the screening process, to reduce applicant fatigue and frustration. Don’t hide important information in the middle of long paragraphs, or interrupt the process with tangents about your company philosophy. Present the form in a concise manner that ensures candidates understand what is being asked of them, and label all required fields for clarity.
Next, consider specific accessibility requirements. Is the third-party application platform you’re using accessible for low-vision users? Is it compatible with screen readers? Can those using dictation software access the input fields? Is keyboard navigation always available for those who can’t use a mouse? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, and you don’t have an accessibility consultant on hand, have people with disabilities test it for you, or contact the platform’s staff to learn about their accessibility measures.
If you are hosting the job posting on your own website or social media accounts, ask yourself the same questions about compatibility and accessibility. There are many resources online devoted to designing accessible websites. An ounce of prevention is always preferable to a pound of cure.
Finally, assess the content in your application. Are the images and screenshots described? Do videos have transcripts or captioning for D/deaf candidates? In short, can anyone with basic computer skills understand and apply for your job posting?
Tip: if you’re concerned that any part of your application may exclude a qualified candidate, provide an alternate application method—perhaps an email address—so that anyone who cannot use the default application has another way of sending you their information. Make sure your Human Resources department is aware of this alternative, lest staff discourage an applicant from reaching out.

The Interview: Accommodate, and Focus on Ability

Employers should assume that not every interviewee will disclose the presence of a disability beforehand, and take a proactive approach to interview preparation.
First things first: consider your interview venue. Is it physically accessible? If so, it’s helpful to notify all candidates in the interview invitation. Have a backup location in mind in case the original space presents impassable barriers. You want your candidates focusing on their interview preparation, not on whether they’ll be able to enter the building. The interview invitation is also a perfect time to mention that you are happy to accommodate access requests. Some interviewees may feel emboldened to disclose at this point, which will make the process smoother for everyone.
Next, prepare your staff to plan inclusive interviews. Ensure that all paperwork and handouts are available in alternate formats for visually impaired interviewees, and know that they may require assistance with signing hard copies (we recommend investing in a handy signature guide, which is also useful for anyone with unsteady hands). Honour specific requests as best you can, and ask clarifying questions.
During the interview itself, resist the urge to interrogate the interviewee about the exact nature of their disability, and keep the interview squarely on topic. Never ask questions like “Are you capable of the basic duties of this job?” Assume that if a candidate has taken the trouble to apply and attend an interview, chances are they are able to accomplish the necessary duties. Instead, ask about workarounds and methods: “I see you have some video editing experience. What types of software do you use? Are there any accommodations we can make for you?”
Don’t worry if you’re nervous or unsure. It’s likely the interviewee expects this, and will be glad to answer pertinent questions about how they will approach the job.
Tip: Broaden your candidate pool by considering alternatives to the traditional interview for applicants with high anxiety, autism, and other conditions that make the typical interview setting excessively difficult. Work trials and skills tests are excellent ways to assess a candidate’s suitability, depending on the job duties.

Pre-Employment Testing: Make it Relevant and Inclusive

Pre-employment testing can let candidates with weaker interview skills shine more brightly, but it can also exclude people who would excel in the job but struggle with the limitations of pre-employment tests. Since testing varies widely from employer to employer, we’ll provide a few general guidelines. For more in-depth insight, we suggest an accessibility audit.
The most vital tenet of inclusive pre-employment testing is that it remains relevant. Assessing a candidate’s soft skills is important, but some tests are gratuitously complicated. Trim the fat when designing testing, so that no unnecessary hurdles remain. Is that colour-matching personality test essential, especially if it shuts out visually impaired candidates? Does your testing interface depend on inaccessible software? Is extra time allocated to candidates who may work more slowly in exam-like situations but who would be perfectly efficient in your day-to-day environment? No matter what you’re testing for, you’ll want the process to reflect the actual job as closely as possible. Do not assume that being unable to complete pre-employment testing in its default form is a sign of incompetence; you’ll risk dismissing people who would otherwise be valuable assets.
Tip: Collaborate with candidates to work around testing issues. A more flexible test is not necessarily a less rigorous one.


Beyond the specifics, inclusive hiring is all about facilitating equal access. An inclusive screening process is not an easy, simplistic, or ineffective one. It is more flexible, less convoluted, and more inviting. Committing actively and continuously to inclusive hiring processes sends a positive message to employees, customers, and fellow employers, and that can only be a positive thing for your business.
Ultimately, implementing inclusive hiring contributes to a more diverse and talented workforce. Hiring inclusively is not just the right thing to do–it’s the sensible thing to do.

11 Years of Pancakes: Friendship, Gratitude, and Community Partnerships

Eleven years is an awfully long time, and a whole lot in our world has changed since 2006. New programs were introduced, a new CEO arrived, and the community in which we serve continued to grow. One thing that has remained constant, however, is our annual Community Pancake Breakfast—a give-back event set aside for community-building, networking, and the celebration of the people who support us in our efforts to make Alberta a more inclusive, welcoming province.
Given its impressively long history, our Pancake Breakfast is always well-attended, and draws guests from all imaginable walks of life. We can usually count on a few hundred hungry people including families, politicians, and local partners. This year, for example, Councillor Tony Caterina made a speech, the Highlands branch of the EdmontonTony Caterina giving a speech Public Library set up a table, and the Alberta Federation of Labour made an appearance. Friends, neighbours, partners, supporters, clients, and members of the general public flock to our yearly breakfasts in anticipation of delicious free food, fun outdoor activities and, of course, the chance to show their support to us and the people we serve every day. Proud as we are of our work here at DECSA, this is a time for recognizing the efforts of our surrounding community.
First, we give thanks to our volunteers, who took photos, served food despite intense heat, helped supervise tables, and made themselves useful in every way they could find. We could not hope to succeed without exceptional souls who donate their time freely and gladly. A special nod to a dozen students from CDI College is in order, as they all arrived bright and early and were chiefly responsible DECSA volunteers from CDI college serving food to the guestfor ensuring the breakfast ran smoothly.
Second, we must recognize our wonderful guests, who skip the chance to sleep in to eat, laugh, and enjoy the sunshine with us. We could not ask for a better neighbourhood, community, or city. We are truly blessed to be surrounded by such lively, active support from so many.
Finally, we express immeasurable gratitude to our sponsors, without whom we could not have hosted our breakfasts at all. Northlands has been our chief sponsor for years, and this year was no different. We thank them for helping us provide food for the breakfast, as well as the equipment used to prepare and serve it. Without a contribution from Northlands, our Community Pancake Breakfasts wouldn’t be possible. We must also acknowledge Re/Max, who lent us tents, a bouncy castle, and other equipment to ensure all our attendees would have everything they need for a comfortable and enjoyable morning. Edmonton’s Food Bank, which has been a loyal partner and provides ongoing and essential support to DECSA on a consistent basis, enhanced our breakfast by  DECSA guest are enjoying their breakfast in front of the RE/MAX tents providing beverages for all the guests. Given the high demand for food bank services across Canada and in Edmonton itself, we are doubly grateful for this assistance. We must also mention CIBC and Sun Life Financial, as staff from both companies have been long-time friends of DECSA and can be counted upon to lend us support during important events and milestones. Last but certainly not least, we owe many thanks to the kind community member who donated his petting zoo. The animals were a welcome addition to the event, and their gentle dispositions allowed us to give our young visitors an especially memorable experience.
And so, for now, we put the photos away, and move along to other exciting events planned for the coming months. Next year, though, we hope to see you all at our 12th Community Pancake Breakfast. Help us keep this treasured tradition going for another 11 years!

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Don’t Forget the Men: Supporting Male Victims of Sexual Exploitation

Whom do you picture when you hear the words “sexual exploitation?” How about “human trafficking?” “Prostitution?”
Research suggests you’re probably picturing a woman, as this is the image associated most strongly and persistently with victims of sexual exploitation. The media have been instrumental in perpetuating this stereotype, even though it silences and ostracizes an important demographic: men.
We may think of men as perpetrators of sexual exploitation far more often than as victims, except perhaps when it comes to prison culture. When society addresses sexual violence and exploitation, particularly in the trafficking industry, it’s usually addressing young women.
Besides the fact that men outnumber women in industries outside of commercial sex trafficking (such as labour trafficking), they also make up a not insignificant number of victims in the sex trade. After all, one victim is still one too many.
Focused as it is on hypermasculine ideals of manly strength and power, society’s reaction to the notion of male victimhood makes it more difficult for men to report their experiences. They may feel emasculated by what they have done and had done to them, believing their manhood has been compromised. While they generally have the same reactions women do when dealing with sexual violence, men may respond more readily with anger, and tend to turn to substance abuse to erase or at least manage the effects of trauma. As they confront these issues, they are left to do so mostly alone, with few front-line workers from schools, shelters and other social organizations available to offer support. For many front-line workers, sexual exploitation of males just isn’t on their radar.
Worse still, men can face resistance and stigma when they do choose to report. If they are believed, which is not a given, they may make themselves vulnerable to ridicule and shame. Enduring the victim-blaming typically aimed at women victims is hard enough: why didn’t they just leave? Was there any chance that they deserved to be abused? Was it really exploitation if they were “working?”
In addition, they must battle questions geared more toward masculinity: why did they allow themselves to be exploited? Were they not “man enough” to find a way out? Some victims even struggle with the physiological responses of their bodies—did they secretly enjoy what was happening to them? Has their victimhood been cancelled out by physical processes beyond their control?
So, what with prescribed gender roles, societal expectations, and a misinformed public, what can be done?
The consensus seems to be that barriers between men and crucial supports need to be removed. First responders and other Front-line workers who administer help and guidance to victims of sexual exploitation need to remain aware that men are potential victims. Men must have ready and barrier-free access to support as they navigate away from exploitation and toward personal freedom. Men must be believed, validated, and empowered. Most importantly of all, sexual exploitation of men must be studied more comprehensively so that the best possible support can be provided. The field is flooded with statistics about women; it’s time more research targeted men.
One of DECSA’s main goals is to help both men and women free themselves from sexual exploitation. We run a 20-week Transitions program, open to men, women, and transgender individuals who have past or current involvement in the sex trade. In January, two groups—one for those identifying as female, the other for those identifying as male—begin their journey in the Transitions program. While women participants have already begun, the men’s group will start on January 27th.
If you wish to exit the sex trade, we encourage you to contact us to see whether you qualify for one of our program groups. We welcome the opportunity to help, so please get in touch.

3 Reasons Your Job Search is Unsuccessful (and How to Improve)

The job hunt is unpredictable: there’s no way to know how long it will take or what the results will be. This unpredictability should never be used as an excuse not to conduct the most organized and efficient search possible, though. Yes, job hunting is somewhat influenced by luck, but many unsuccessful, frustrated job-seekers are going about things in entirely the wrong way.
Here are a few reasons your job search might not be going as well as you’d like, and some ways to turn it around.

You’re Living the Unemployment Lifestyle

If you’re reading this after having spent two hours firing off resumes from your bed, this section is for you.
There’s a reason the phrase “looking for a job is your job” is so often spoken. This piece of well-worn wisdom has solid roots. If you approach your job search as a disorganized, chance-based process, it will lead to unnecessary stress and exhaustion.
Treat your search like a new job. Set goals for yourself and stick to them. For example, decide how many resumes you want to send out in any given week, and aim to meet those expectations, just as you would in any other job. Targets, plans, and deadlines are excellent methods of organization whether you’re employed or not.
If you structure your life the way you would if you were already employed, you’ll increase motivation even more. Avoid sleeping in, lounging around in your pyjamas, and job searching from your couch. Maintain a healthy routine, and resist the urge to isolate yourself. Make sure you’re always in “productivity mode,” so you’re ready to hit the ground running once you do receive that job offer.
Good news: DECSA’s Community Hub, which is open to the public, is an ideal place to go if you need to be productive somewhere other than your kitchen. You can work in a comfortable, well-equipped environment where free coffee, expert advice, and Wi-Fi are always available. What’s not to love?

You’re Afraid to Network

We know, we know: networking is nerve-racking, especially if you’re introverted or shy. Social anxiety and other issues can complicate the process (we have a program for that). No matter how you might feel about it or what type of job you’re looking for, networking is an unavoidable reality. You may as well resign yourself to that fact and start giving it a try.
Networking can take various forms, depending on your needs. It can be as simple as talking to people—friends, family, former classmates—about your job search and what you’re looking for. Even the most casual conversation over lunch with an acquaintance can produce a promising lead.
If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, you can take your networking to the next level. Join professional organizations and mingle with people who work in the field of your interest. Getting to know these people will equip you with updated knowledge on your industry, including salary expectations and soft skills you may not realize are in demand. These professional networks can also help you tap the hidden job market, since many jobs are never advertised publicly at all.
Having a support system of some kind is a good idea on general principle. Knowing that there are people looking out for you when you struggle can be a relief in itself.
More good news: One of our strengths here at DECSA is our network. We have placed so many clients throughout the years that we’ve amassed a long, diverse list of contacts. Regardless of what you’re looking for, it’s likely we’ll know the right people.

You’re Not Getting Noticed

Online job hunting is convenient, but it does come with one huge drawback: competition is fiercer than ever, and you have fewer opportunities to market yourself. It’s challenging to stand out in the crowd when you’re up against hundreds of applicants. People tend to apply for jobs they’re unqualified for, simply because online forms make it so easy to do so. Your application, no matter how relevant, can get buried, so it’s no longer optional: you must set yourself apart.
Application forms ask for standard information, which can be an obstacle when attempting to catch a hiring manager’s attention. The best strategy is to present standard information in a nonstandard way. Anyone can list a long series of job duties, so try focusing on your personal accomplishments instead. Did you go above and beyond in your last position? Which tangible targets did you surpass? In which ways did you improve the organization you worked with last? Fitting this information into the boilerplate application form will demonstrate initiative and personal achievement.
Most applications will ask for a resume, even if you must also fill out a separate form. This is your moment. Make it count. There are thousands of articles out there to help you craft a customized resume that will demand the right type of attention, so we won’t get into specifics here, but rest assured that a tailored resume is a must. You may even find yourself adjusting your resume for each application, so choose a flexible format. Please, never neglect the cover letter. It’s not always required, but it’s almost always going to give you an edge.
The best news yet: did you know that here at DECSA, we have resume and cover letter writing services? If you drop by our Community Hub on week days, our expert staff will help you write a personalized resume and cover letter. You don’t need to be a DECSA client. All you have to do is visit us.


If you’re looking for a way to kick your job search up several notches, please contact us. Even if you don’t qualify for one of our specialized programs, you’re still more than welcome to make use of our extensive walk-in services, equipment, and well-stocked business library. In the meantime, browse our website for more information.
Good luck!

3 Little-known Facts About Leaving the Sex Trade

The sex trade is often shrouded in mystery, which is made still worse by societal stigma. Those who work in the profession do so out of necessity and face difficult decisions. With so much pressure from the general public to abandon this type of employment, we feel it’s worth informing that public of what it is like for a sex worker to leave the lifestyle and search for a place in a world that does not welcome them.

1.      The stigma never goes away Photo of girl crying

Former sex workers expect hate speech and degrading treatment from others in the trade, but they often receive the most ill treatment from those on the outside. If they are outed as former or current sex workers, they are almost always faced with the threat of losing their mainstream jobs. Employers are not averse to dismissing former sex trade workers, even if they have not worked in the industry for decades. It is difficult enough to begin such a radical transition, and it is made still harder by the need to hide what they’ve done in the past. Regardless of how successful they become, they will always have stigma dogging their footsteps.

2. Judgment Abounds, but Support is Lacking

Since sex work is so heavily stigmatized, many are eager to encourage those in the industry to exit as quickly as possible. They heap condemnation on these individuals, insisting that their work devalues them and chips away at their self-respect. In other words, they’re not really respectable people until they change professions. Despite this, support for transitioning sex workers is lacking. Even if the initial process is smooth and they find work, they risk losing their jobs if they’re outed, and find themselves very much alone in their struggles. This is why DECSA established our Transitions program, to help these people start their new lives without judgment or disrespectful treatment. Transitioning may seem like a simple decision, but it is by no means easy.

guys-face3. Transgender Individuals are Uniquely Vulnerable

Being transgender is almost guaranteed to mean the world will be a hostile, dangerous place to live. Transgender people, especially women of colour, are often victims of socioeconomic barriers, and they feel that sex work is the only way to support themselves. Further, transition is very expensive, so financial pressures are even more debilitating. Sex work is demeaning, yet individuals may find that it’s the only viable way to keep themselves off the streets. Being a transgender individual is risky at the best of times—they are frequently assaulted and even murdered—and the sex trade necessitates a lifestyle that is less than ideal, both emotionally and physically.

 

Sex trade workers are a vulnerable and misunderstood group, who are caught between a dangerous profession and a hostile society. This is why DECSA dedicates much of our resources to helping sex trade workers exit safely, get back on their feet, and secure mainstream employment. One of our greatest accomplishments is preparing these individuals to take control of their lives and build a brighter, healthier future.

Marketplace: Family and New Faces

On Thursday, September 22, we had the pleasure of hosting our monthly marketplace. This is an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to come together, promote their businesses, and engage in some collective networking. Past graduates of our Ventures Program feature prominently, but there were some new faces as well.img_6124

Meet Dana, a talented artist who comes from a long line of artistic people; it’s practically in her blood. She’s opening DIBS On Designs (Dana’s Innovative Business Solutions), and while her original dream of painting ceilings turned out to be impractical, she’s found her niche and seems quite happy to be there. In addition to landscape paintings, she expands her artwork to include logos, signs, and even furniture.

“I love to create things,” she said, and credits the Ventures program for “launching [her] career.” She added that “Ventures was like working with family.” Since her entire family is very artistic, it’s easy to imagine Ventures feeling a little like coming home.

Mohammed, a soft-spoken graduate of Ventures, talked to us about his delicious samosas. At the moment, he makes them all on his own—with occasional help from his wife—and his love for the img_6130process was evident. The samosas are still in the testing stage, and his business idea, Sambusas, is not yet officially off the ground, but judging by how popular his creations are, it’s only a matter of time until he achieves success.

Colleen, a seasoned entrepreneur, introduced us to gorgeous jewelry and assorted crafts. Her wares are uniquely beautiful, and she certainly knows her way around entrepreneurship. She explained that she couldn’t complete the Ventures program, which she regrets, but that “it’s helped so many people.” Colleen likes to get involved with local businesses, as she values supporting Edmonton’s economy. When Colleen isn’t selling her crafts, she can be found selling leggings and, of all things, popcorn.

We met a new face: Daryl, a beader, displayed her colourful creations and chatted with us about how she got started.

“I did a lot of beading as a kid,” she said, “and I img_6102started up again out of nostalgia, really.”

As she sorted through delicate bracelets and some rather unusual frog charms, she explained that her blindness, so often the focus of people’s questions, hasn’t really affected her much. “I still have colour memory, so I generally know which colours go together.” She describes the process of choosing beads as a “multisensory experience,” which the average sighted person may not be able to appreciate fully.

We host this marketplace monthly, and our exhibitors come back time after time to network, socialize, and gain valuable exposure. Whether they’re familiar with DECSA or brand new to it, the atmosphere seems to agree with them. We hope to see more members of the public dropping by to experience the magic.

Good Night and Good Luck! Congratulations to our Ventures Graduates

Emotions ran wild at DECSA last Thursday! Ventures program clients wrapped up their six-week long curriculum, undertaking a gratifying ceremony in which many were left in wistful tears of jovial congratulations and farewells. The best part? Audience members were gifted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness splendid entrepreneurial pitches provided by none other than the blossoming businessmen and women who took on the program. For those who missed the chance to see the presentations first-hand, here is an in-depth account of the event—documenting photographs, quotes, business ideas, and raw reactions from the attendees!

What is the Ventures Program?

DECSA’s Ventures program serves people who are eighteen and older, live in Edmonton or surrounding areas, have a visible or invisible disability, and have a viable business idea they want to make happen. Those who take part are provided with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement their own small-time businesses.

photo2.jpgThe program is managed and facilitated by Sherree, along with her talented and hardworking team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the Help

The ceremony began with a shout-out to two very special volunteers who were integral to the program’s success:

photo6Mona

Mona first found DECSA at a volunteer fair. She said the only agency that stood out to her was none other than DECSA! Thanks to our very own and incredibly articulate Aimee, who was able to rattle off a five-second pitch for DECSA, Mona knew immediately that the organization was right for her! “DECSA would be nothing without people like Aimee,” she said. Mona helped out the Ventures program every day and was essential to this year’s success.

 

 

 

 

 

photo3Denis

Denis is a graphic designer; he taught the science of branding and logo design to the class. He thanked his mom and dad. He “wouldn’t be here without ‘em!”

 

 

 

 

Pitches from Our Entrepreneurs

These are some of the graduating students of our June 2016 class.

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Kimberley was first up, and featured a very unique presentation using assistive technology to demonstrate some of the services she will be providing in her business. She’s planning on providing life & career counselling services to blind customers. Her compatriots admire her humour most; when helping Kimberley find her lighter Sherree asked for its colour. “How would I know what colour it is? — I’m blind!” Kimberley joked.

 

 

 

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Janet was next up. Her business provides hand and machine-sewn traditional Aboriginal clothing. She attributes her greatest inspiration to her grandmother; after her grandmother’s passing, Janet was reminded of her by a blue butterfly on her windowsill. “Let them go, let them be free,” she reminisced.

 

 

Brandon took on the notoriously awkward “elevator pitch.” After reciting a 30-second pitch to Sherree, Brandon gave us a tour of his website. Brandon offers graphic design services to artists and businesses, and promises to keep the industry and goals of his clients in mind when designing their logos.reu5rue

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Dustin believes that safer, alternative analgesics should be available for everyone. His business plan is to provide cost-efficient and donation-driven medical marijuana services to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dayna is a passionate artist who desires to provide low-cost digital and printed artwork to private buyers and businesses. She is currently working to establish her company, but wishes to soon be able to help others with disabilities achieve their goals.

 

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Congratulations to our Graduates!

Developing a start-up can be tough, but with the skills learned in the Ventures program these clients are better prepared for the challenging journeys that lie ahead. Good luck to all our graduates! Stay persistent, and remember to apply the skills you’ve learned here!

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What’s exciting at DECSA this summer?

#1 Free 10th Annual Community Pancake Breakfast

20150708_095937(1)Our 10th Annual Community Pancake Breakfast is coming up on July 6, from 7:30 to 10:30! As always, it’s completely free and open to everyone, so come by with or without kids to savour some fresh breakfast, join in organized games, leap around the bouncy castle, and tour a firetruck with local firefighters, or just chat with friends. And all this free fun is made possible only through donations from Northlands/Bellevue Community League and Re/Max Edmonton & Area Associates, to whom we are very, very thankful.

#2 Accepting new clients into the Assets for Success program

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All summer we’re accepting new intakes for Assets for Success, a program for people with disabilities who are seeking employment. Through this program we provide employment preparation workshops, one-on-one career counselling, and direct connections to employers, so if you have a disability, you’re looking for work, and you’re between 15 and 30, call us at 780-474-2500 to learn more.

 

#3 Down to Earth: Gardening with Youth At Risk

gardenThis summer, youth at risk will get outside to learn skills, make friends, and receive mentorship as they plant, grow, and harvest non-GMO vegetable seeds in plots on our grounds. This is a great opportunity for youth to have fun, take ownership of a project, and reap the benefits of their efforts! We’re still looking for support to cover costs, so check out our GoFundMe campaign to learn more and donate!

We hope to find you among the faces coming in and out of our doors this summer! If you’re looking for an excuse to stop by, consider volunteering! We’re searching for helpers for the breakfast, Down to Earth, and a few other projects this summer. If you’d enjoy volunteering with us, call our front desk at 780-474-2500 to learn more about our opportunities. Enjoy the warm, green months while they last!

Art Turns Lives Around: Story of Art Instructor at DECSA

Who knew that pencil crayons could turn your life around?

EmmaIf you told Emma a year ago that today she’d be a thriving artist and the instructor of Try Angles – an art class under the umbrella of the Community Linking Programs, Wellness Network – she wouldn’t have believed you. She wasn’t an artist, she was a business woman, and drawing and painting weren’t even on her list of things to do for fun.

It was through some dark times that her inner artist began to emerge about a year ago. Struggling in an abusive relationship and facing overwhelming depression, Emma attempted to take her own life. When she woke up in the hospital, getting a box of pencil crayons was the first step to a complete life change for Emma. She’d never done much art before, and she found that it was exactly what she needed. “It was therapy for me, and it was amazing,” she says. “Art is so relaxing! It doesn’t let my mind wander into the past or future. I am in the moment – now. Yesterday I can’t control. Tomorrow hasn’t come. Now is the only time I can control.”

Art became a doorway into good mental health for Emma, and she started attending Try Angles, an art class for adults living with mental health or addictions. She soaked up every class and even started creating art at home.

Now, a year later, she is teaching two Try Angles classes and creating all sorts of beautiful artworks in her free time. “I am very, very happy for the first time,” she says. “My life is good. I never thought I’d stay that, but it is.”

Emma is now bringing the Try Angles art class to DECSA on Tuesdays from 1:30 until 3:30, and you are welcome to join us. Come with two dollars for supplies and all your artistic enthusiasm!

The Try Angles art class is under the umbrella of the Community Linking Programs, Wellness Network. These programs are available on a drop-in, non-referred basis for adults living with mental health and addictions. Please contact Cathy at 780-342-7765 or visit www.WellnessNetworkEdmonton.com for more information.

Lillian in Assets Finds Work, Home and Hope

Lillian had been homeless for twelve years when she arrived at DECSA exhausted and discouraged. She was facing mental and emotional health challenges, and she was more than ready to find some stability. “I was broken, and I was trying to hide it, but I felt like I wasn’t worth anything,” she says.

Through our Assets for Success program, Lillian started to find her feet again. “Everyone at DECSA believed in me. They kept telling me I deserved something better, and I could get there.” The Assets team worked with her to gain several certificates and credentials that would show employers her credibility and open doors for Lillianconsistent work. She completed training in First Aid/CPR, ProServe, construction safety, Workplace Hazardous Materials, Medical Administration, and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills.

Then, with guidance from the Assets team, she found work as a Personal Care Aide in a group home for children, so now she is using her skills and strengths to serve kids who face challenges.

Lillian received the financial aid she needed to rent an apartment, and she has been able to furnish it through donations from one of DECSA’s connections. Now Lillian is settling into her new life.

“I get up in the morning, and I look out my window, and I’m facing a lake! Last year I was homeless. Now I am in awe, and I’ll be grateful forever to DECSA because I’d lost hope in myself and they kept telling me I could get on my feet again. They believed in me, and I feel like they gave me back myself.”

We are so proud of Lillian, who has showed herself to be brave, determined, hard-working, and very capable. Congratulations, Lillian!