If you had asked me after I finished university what I was going to be doing for my career, working as a Direct Support Professional would not have been on my radar. I found myself employed at a clothing store after getting my Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and wanting to do some volunteer work to fill my off hours. The Toby & Henry Battle Developmental Centre was a block away from my house, so for convenience sake I applied to volunteer with Reena’s Sunday Friends Program. That was in 1998. Now, eighteen years later I am still at Reena! No longer a volunteer, I have held various positions from a Full-Time Direct Support Professional to Supervisor. Currently I am a Part-Time Direct Support Professional in the Channels Day Program.
So what was it about Reena in a particular that made me make a volunteer position into my career?
Reena is an agency that made me feel welcome and they always provided me with the opportunity to grow and learn. I have been able to take many onsite training courses as I work.
Then there were the people that I met along my journey. The individuals I worked with were vulnerable, they were at times seen as a burden to society, and were viewed by many as not being able to achieve much. Reena, however, taught me the complete opposite, and the individuals themselves showed me they were strong, smart and ready to take on the world! All they needed was a voice, an individual to act as an advocate to to assist them in showing the world what they could achieve. I felt honoured to be able to act as that person. That feeling of fulfilment I got when an individual who had never been on a ride at an amusement park, because they were told it was not accessible to individuals in wheelchairs, got on the ride with the help of myself and two other staff, was one of my proudest moments. Hearing from an individual, thanking me for assisting them in fulfilling their dream of finding paid employment is a feeling of pride I would never have had in another job.
My positions at Reena have completely changed my perception on the role of Direct Support Professionals, which at times I feel is seen as care-giving. The individuals I have met throughout my career (and I say career because it has been more that just a job, it has been a place where I have been able to learn and grow), have taught me to be stronger, compassionate and resilient. I am lucky to have found a a place where I wake up and get to work with such amazing human beings.
– Tamara, Part-Time Direct Support Professional at Reena