Tammy Jacobs’ first experience with the handicapped was as an aide to a young girl who rode the school bus to Grande Prairie from Bezanson daily. Tammy was in high school at the time and enjoyed the experience so much that she decided to pursue a career in Rehabilitation.
Tammy started as a summer student in Community Services Options (CSO) in 1992. After a time away from the organization, she returned to CSO in 1997 and has been working with the Association since.
Tammy is now a Day Programs Coordinator with a caseload of thirty clients and five individually funded programs. Program planning for individuals puts her in close contact with the clients and an important aspect of her work involves ensuring that the clients are happy with their employment situations. If they are not, she advocates for change. Tammy is instrumental in helping clients to implement changes. She advocates for clients within the CSO program and within the community.
Community employment for clients has been on the rise in recent years. Tammy attributes the change to increased exposure of clients in the community. There is also a concentrated effort to expand the employment opportunities for clients and to reach potential employers. The Association offers a diverse labour pool within its client base.
When Tammy recalls her days a job developer for CSO, she says that approaching potential employers was a difficult part of the job. There were far more rejections than there are today. “Selling a person so is difficult. It was hard not to take a rejection personally.” Whenever an employer embraced the idea, Tammy would make sure to get going on a plan right away. One on one support for individuals and a two-week trial period were standard when a client started in a new position. Most clients appreciate making their own money and their self-esteem increases as a result of their accomplishments. Relationships develop with co-workers in the workplace and the clients then expand their social activities with invitations to barbecues, golfing, Christmas parties etc.
During her time with the Association, Tammy has learned to appreciate the small things in life. She also appreciates the differences between people. She says that the clients have a special ability to deal with the fact that there are many people coming and going in their lives on a regular basis.
Personal Plans keep staff accountable and Tammy likes the fact that the focus is on achievements and goal setting for the year. Client dreams and requests are not always attainable, so the approach in such cases is to offer choices that are reasonable and within the area of interest the client prefers. One client passed her First Aid certification as a prerequisite for volunteering at a day care centre.
Clients are the highlight of the job for Tammy. They are the reason she continues on with her job and she feels connected to their life successes. Tammy remembers graduating from the Rehabilitation Program with unrealistic expectations about her ability to change attitudes toward the handicapped. New workers to the field should realize that they can only do so much.
So come into it realistically, knowing you can only do so much. Come in, give one hundred percent to your job, and go home, knowing you did the best you can do. But you can’t change the world. You can’t change the way people feel about them.