Debbie Aasen’s career choices have consistently put her in close touch with people. She has spent the past ten years working with the handicapped for the Association and is currently making plans to travel to Mexico to work with orphaned children as an associate of “Foundations for His Ministry.”
In the 1970s, Debbie worked with the handicapped in a vocational setting. She was not happy with the way the clients were treated and felt that she did not have enough of a “voice” to make a difference. She decided to pursue other work after that experience but eventually re-entered the field with more confidence.
In 1995 Debbie moved to Grande Prairie from Kelowna. There, she had attended a Special Needs Worker program and worked in a group home with women who had just been released from the Kelowna Institution.
Debbie started with the Association as a residential worker at the 109th Ave group home. One of the challenges Debbie finds in her role as a group home worker is keeping the fine line between friendship and staffing duties. The limits to relationships are sometimes difficult to accept. “You have to keep it at a level where you are still helping a client and that they feel safe.” She maintains that it is possible to be a friend and a worker in dealing with the clients. That relationship remains very important to her.
People often say that you can’t be a friend and a paid staff at the same time but I still beg to differ and I stand on that quite firmly.
Highlights for Debbie are the “little things” that happen during the day. The clients often remind her of what’s important. The feedback she receives from the clients is enough to make a difference in her day and can change her perception of stressful situations.
As an example, she recalls a particularly harried day. She was taking a client to meet her family and was feeling frazzled from the day’s events. She remembers looking up as she was passing luggage to the vehicle and there was her client, signing “I love you.” That’s when she thought, “Wait a minute, you’re looking at the wrong side of this coin here.”
Debbie says it is sometimes difficult not to interfere with decisions clients make, especially if the decisions go against personal values and beliefs. In cases such as these, it takes a real effort to assist the client in achieving goals.
In the group homes, each client has his or her own strong points to contribute. Living as roommates, especially with transitions such as a new client in the home, can be difficult but all in all it tends to work itself out. Clients find a way to a balance in the home.
Debbie believes that “what you expect from people is what you are going to get from people.” Respect between individuals is the factor Debbie considers the most important element in the work.