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Giving back: how two charities in the Comox Valley are helping their communities

August 24, 2020

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Every September at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention, FortisBC hosts a draw for elected officials in FortisBC-served communities for a $1,500 donation to a non-profit organization within their community. It’s one of the many ways we look to invest in building a stronger British Columbia. After all, these communities are the ones in which our staff live and work. They’re our families, friends and neighbours.

In September 2019, City of Courtenay Councillor Manno Theos landed the $1,500 donation and elected to split it evenly with L’Arche Comox Valley, the Comox Valley Child Development Association and the Courtenay Recreational Association. As we head into a new convention this September, we were able to catch up with two of the winners from last year.

L’Arche Comox Valley

Nestled in the heart of Courtenay, British Columbia, L’Arche Comox Valley has established its own community of adults with developmental disabilities and those who support them.

“In these trying times in the COVID era, it’s humbling to remind ourselves that social and physical isolation are not new for adults with developmental disabilities,” said Paula Holmes-Rodman, L’Arche Comox Valley’s former Community Engagement Coordinator. “That’s why if there’s one word that describes us, it’s ‘community’ – we’re creating a community where adults with developmental disabilities can find a home, socialize, eat meals and do activities together, and we’re helping integrate this community into the larger Comox Valley community as well.”

L'Arche Comox Valley

L’Arche Comox Valley

Part of the larger L’Arche Canada and L’Arche International networks, the L’Arche vision is about transforming lives and building relationships.

“With the donation we received, we are able to continue to provide our programs, like woodworking, art, beading, chair yoga, music, dance, painting and so much more,” explained Paula. “In other words, we put resources into building skills, self-confidence and friendships.” These programs are free or low cost, and anyone can take them regardless of previous experience or ability.

L'Arche Comox Valley

L’Arche Comox Valley

The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily halted some of L’Arche’s plans but it continues to provide programming for its members. With physical distancing requirements forcing the centre to close to the public temporarily, L’Arche Comox Valley has gone virtual with hosting painting, Zumba and chair yoga classes to name a few.

The goal remains to support adults with developmental disabilities safely. “We are called the ‘I Belong Centre,’ says Paula. “Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is an attitude and that’s what we’re embracing. There’s a huge need here, and that’s why we’re grateful for this donation.”

Comox Valley Child Development Association

The Comox Valley Child Development Association is helping the children in its community in many ways. Their therapy department provides speech, language, occupational and physical therapy for children under the age of six. There’s a supported child development department for children in daycare who need additional support and an infant development program for families with children under the age of three who need extra support. And a lot more.

The $1,500 donation went specifically to The Autism Program, committed to helping children with autism.

“I often say that if you know one child with autism, then you know ONE child with autism,” said April Statz, Program Manager with The Autism Program. “The autism spectrum is broad and each child has unique needs, and the only way to help them is through individualized programming. That’s what they’re getting here.”

Comox Valley child Development Association

Comox Valley Child Development Association

Each individual program is designed and implemented by The Autism Program’s team of Behavior Consultants and Autism Interventionists. From one-on-one to peer and small group teaching, programs can take place in the classroom, outdoors, care facilities or even at their homes. Services are available for children and youth two to 19 years old.

Comox Valley Child Development Association

Comox Valley Child Development Association

Like any other organization, The Autism Program has been forced to pivot their services to accommodate the unique challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. While older group kids can receive services over online video chats, younger children continue to need a safe space for individualized attention.

“We only have children in the room with their therapist, no parents,” said April. “In a field where relationships are everything, we work really hard to build relationships with our students and the pandemic has really made things more challenging.”

Giving back

Giving back to the communities in which we live and work is a core principle of our work, and a tradition we continue to uphold, continuing with this September at a new Union of BC Municipalities convention.

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