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Skills for inclusion
Yellowknife Association for Community Living connects people with intellectual disabilities with jobs

Robin Grant
Northern News Services
Friday, February 10, 2017

Three times a week, Terry Kuluktana heads to Stanton Territorial Hospital to work for the food services company, Aramark Canada.

He puts together cutlery sets which the company uses in the hospital.

"It keeps me busy," he said. "I like going in and out and seeing people."

Kuluktana is part of the Yellowknife Association for Community Living (YKACL) Business Services Team, an initiative with the Skills Training and Community Inclusion program.

He started in the program and was later employed part-time by Aramark Canada.

The program helps individuals with intellectual disabilities develop skills that will help them find employment, as well as encourage them to engage with the community in a meaningful way.

These services include poster distribution, recycling pick-up, mail preparation, paper shredding, courier delivery and much more.

According to the association, members collected thousands of bins of recyclables in 2015, which kept tons of waste out of the landfill. In 2014, the team made 903 recycling pick-ups, completed 1,522 courier deliveries, distributed 4,140 posters and assembled 10,000 luggage tags for government and industry organizations.

The association's skills training and community inclusion manager Donna-Marie Meserah-Zdyb said the program ensures members are included in the community by providing them with useful skills and income.

"We start with pretty basic stuff," she said. "We start with mail courier services, shredding services, recycling services. It's pretty straight forward. It's a good start-off point for a lot of our guys. We are out in the community a lot."

She explained the program helps teach basic life skills such as coming to work on time every day, tolerating unpleasant work and social skills.

"Those everyday hurdles are the ones that we work on," she said.

Ultimately, the goal is to have the team member move onto permanent part-time and full-time employment.

All revenue generated by the program is paid to the individuals who provide the services.

"Our clients are so well known, it's amazing," said Meserah-Zdyb. "I had no idea a number of people the guys knew when they were out. To me that is inclusion. It's the, 'Hi' on the street. It's the recommendation for the shredding job or the recycling job. It's that familiar face and that smile that goes along with it."

Communication and administrative assistant with Yellowknife Education District No. 1. Jenny Aitken said every day, a client and support worker comes to her office to pick up outgoing mail and take it to the post office. The district also often uses the services to distribute posters for upcoming district and school events.

"The staff ... are friendly and easy to work with, and we are pleased to be able to support this organization," she said.

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