One of those individuals was David Johnston, who said he is very excited to have nearly completed the culinary arts program at the college.
“I like learning how to cook all different kinds of dishes, and my goal is once I pass my ITA (Industry Training Authority) test is to go out and get my 600 cooking hours and then hopefully continue on and get my Level 2 and 3,” he said.
Johnston currently works as a janitor, and as a cook at the Salvation Army Church on Friday nights when the church hosts a dinner and service. He also works for the BC Self Advocacy Foundation as a contributor of both written and video blogs. He said so far he has submitted six articles on topics ranging from removing barriers to living independently.
“It’s a good thing, because I write on what I have went through, and then anybody who has gone through the issues I write on can write comments on the article.”
Those blogs can be viewed at www.bcsaf.org.
Johnston said he hopes by sharing his experiences he can open the public’s eyes – and in particular, local employers – to what persons with disabilities are capable of.
“My hope is that every business in Dawson Creek will hire a disabled person, or at least open their eyes to us and give us a chance to work. We will not let them down, just give us a chance,” he said.
It was clear from Johnston and the other speakers that they are very grateful to have the support of a network of friends and family, mentors and instructors, and support workers from a number of local agencies that assist persons with disabilities.
“I would not be where I am without all the people I thanked here today,” said Johnston.
Those local agencies – including Independent Networking Services, the Dawson Creek Society for Community Living and the South Peace Community Resources Society, to name just a few of the 10 organizations represented at the celebration – are supported by Community Living BC (CLBC), a Crown corporation. Truly Berge, facilitator for CLBC and one of the organizers of the celebration , said her organization seeks to link individuals with those service agencies in their communities and supports them through life planning and skills training.
Berge said she was really impressed by the turnout at the celebration this year, adding it is intended to be a way for the broader community to get to know about those local agencies and how to access their services.
“Today’s event was to really introduce who these agencies are through a meet-and-greet, so it’s not just knowing the agency names or the names of people, but to actually meet those people and to get families and individuals more comfortable with accessing those services,” she said.
She said her hope is to also break down some of the barriers to employment residents with disabilities encounter in Dawson Creek.
“We really want businesses to be opening up their doors to accepting more individuals from employment,” she said. “These people are excited, willing and would give all to have a job and to keep a job.”
She added the general accessibility of businesses to persons with disabilities is another area for improvement.