‘Life-changing’: How a new CanAssist landscaping program is breaking down barriers

'Life-changing': How a new CanAssist landscaping program is breaking down barriers

If you have a developmental disability or a mental illness, finding work can be difficult, but a successful new landscaping program run by CanAssist in partnership with Power to Be is helping to break down those barriers.

Isaiah Brasset has been working at the Victoria Golf Course for the last three months — gaining valuable experience.

“It’s a great place to work,” Isaiah says. “Great crew, great co-workers, really friendly environment and a lot of encouragement!”

Isaiah recently the new landscaping and restoration employment program.

It’s part of CanAssist’s Job Journey initiative for people who may face barriers to finding work.

“Job Journey is an employment program that supports anybody who’s 15-and-up that self-identifies as having a disability or mental health challenge to find and maintain sustainable employment,” CanAssist’s Ciera Sinclair explains.

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Hudson Graham is also learning lots of new skills as a program participant.

“It’s been really great,” Hudson. “I’ve gotten all, all sorts of experience. We do trail maintenance, restoration, we do weeding and also lawn mowing as well.”

Hudson can’t say enough about the program — and the job — it recently helped him land.

“I’m really happy with the program that I’m in because it’ll only improve my skills, and I’ll be able to show just how much of a hard worker I am and that I have a really good work ethic,” he says.

The first 12 weeks are spent at Power to Be, helping to care for the property.

“Our goal is to foster restoration of both the land and ourselves at the same time, so we teach our participants landscaping and restoration skills, but we also really value that time for community building and for building up a sense of belonging,” explains Kallie Laycock of Power to Be.

CanAssist, based out of the University of Victoria, then does six months of job coaching to help participants find work, including one-on-one sessions with a job coach.

“It just truly kind of can breathe life into somebody,” Ciera  says. “The confidence it instills in someone can have such a lasting impact far outside just the realm of employment. It can affect them positively in every single area of their life.”

“It can be extremely life-changing,” Kallie adds. “Some of our participants in the last cohort said it was the first place they really felt like they belonged.”

For Isiah, it’s also helped him find his passion.

“I like working with my body, being physical, so I really like trades, and it’s a cool trade because you’re working with living things,” Isiah says.

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