Personal Stories

Devan’s Journey

Project SEARCH – Health Sciences North Sudbury

Devan working at Health Sciences North
Devan proudly working at Health Sciences North in Sudbury.

Being involved in Project SEARCH has changed Devan’s vision for his life. He always had goals and aspirations, but no clear path to achieve them. Like so many of us, Devon wanted to be independent — to get his driver’s license, move into his own place, support himself.

Project SEARCH helped Devan move towards those goals. Communicating with patients, colleagues, and managers at Health Sciences North developed his skills and confidence, and the busy days as an intern improved his physical health. Devan’s determination and work ethic have set him up for a bright future.

“You get an opportunity,” Devan says. “My attitude changed; my mood changed. I was sitting at home a lot, angry all the time and when I got this chance, I was happy more. I’m happy more often now.”

Lisa Thibeault, Environmental Services Supervisor at Health Sciences North (HSN) says: “The students go from being very pulled back and unsure to I’ve got this. They get to advance their skills and have a place in the community, to have that fulfilling life we all want.”

“This program has opened a lot of people’s eyes,” she adds. “We’re hoping to hire the students — they have the energy and the skills. It’s been an amazing experience.”

Today, Devan works in HSN’s Environmental Services Department, earning a wage that helps provide financial security while he works towards new goals and more independence. He’s even earned his G1 license!

Devan’s high school teacher, Leanne Morin, has noticed positive changes in him since he started Project SEARCH. “He’s more confident. He navigates the community more independently and he’s happier. His skills are more well-rounded. There’s a pride in himself that wasn’t there before.”

Devan’s mom, Laura, agrees. “Devan is proud of the work he’s doing. There’s more financial security, and Devan comes home with a smile on his face. It brings me joy to see him happy.”

In fact, their whole family has benefited. “We don’t have to go through this alone,” Laura adds. “There are people out there to help us get Devan to where we want him to be.”

Smiling Devan sitting in the drivers seat of a truck
Devan, achieving greater independence, having earned his G1 license!

Project SEARCH, is a school-to-work transition program that supports young people, aged 18 to 30, with disabilities as they navigate the challenging transition from school to employment. Click here to learn more about Project SEARCH.

Meet Hannah

“Some clients may not see their norm as a barrier. That’s how they navigate the world.”

Smiling woman in front of a window

Rehabilitation Specialist Hannah Ritson’s job is to assess those barriers and advocate for workplace accommodations that will help clients succeed. She depends heavily on in-person service to see what physical challenges there are, so when WorkBC’s Victoria office closed down she had to find new ways of working.

Hannah took a video tour of one client’s home, for example. As the client moved around her space, Hannah noticed that the client had a drop foot and no use of her left arm. That gave her important insight into what jobs would be appropriate.

Another part of Hannah’s job is collaborating with the Job Developers and Job Retention Specialists on her team to help clients overcome the stigma still attached to disability. One client, who lives with Parkinson’s disease, had impressive bookkeeping and accounting experience but couldn’t land a job. She came to WorkBC when employers couldn’t see past her tremors and stuttering.

That’s where Hannah and her colleagues came in. They marketed the client to employers – highlighted her skills, helped her disclose her disability, outlined the necessary accommodations – and supported her through 40 applications and 20 interviews. Today, she’s working in her field for an inclusive, flexible employer who appreciates her and is invested in meeting her unique needs.

*March of Dimes Canada is subcontracted to provide disability employment services for WorkBC, a provincial government program.

A new job, a new chapter

When Jennifer* starts a new job, she gets her confidence back. But job hunting hasn’t been easy for the Victoria accountant. She says that being hard of hearing and having English as a second language can make it difficult for people to understand her.

“I couldn’t convince them I was the best candidate,” she explains.

Jennifer has another disability that sometimes causes tremors. It doesn’t interfere with her work, but after witnessing her symptoms, one of her employers tried to convince her to go on sick leave.

“I’m okay,” Jennifer told her. “I just need to take longer breaks and go for short walks.”

At another job, she was fired in the middle of income tax season when her symptoms became more obvious.

Jennifer has used the services at WorkBC* during a number of her job searches. Most recently, the staff in the Victoria office helped her improve her resume and cover letter, and contacted employers to highlight her skills and explain the accommodations she needs. They even attended interviews with her. Last November, the team helped her land an exciting new job in her field. The hours are flexible, she can work from home, and her skills are appreciated.

While many people dread tax season, Jennifer is looking forward to it. She can’t wait to use her specialized skills to prepare complicated returns for her clients.

*Jennifer is a pseudonym
*March of Dimes Canada is subcontracted to provide disability employment services for WorkBC, a provincial government program.