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Archive: July, 2012

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Young Woman plans ahead to secure a Canadian Internship

Hello! My name is Juliane and I am 23 years old from Berlin, Germany! I have muscular dystrophy and have been in a wheelchair since I was 14 years old.

Currently I am in my 4th semester of Inclusive Education Degree at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. As part of my studies I have to complete a 20 week internship in the social field and this has brought me to Victoria, BC. I have always loved to travel and the furthest west I had been to was Lanzarote Island, which is part of the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. I wanted to go as far west as I could so Victoria seemed like a good place to start and the internship was the perfect opportunity to get to know another country and its culture. Being away from home for such a long time is a once in a lifetime chance and I just had to do it.

But as easy as it may seem it was not that simple to get to Canada. It has been a long and bumpy road. Here are some nerve-wracking things that happened along the way! First of all I had to find a suitable internship placement, which considered not only my special needs because of my disability, but also fit the requirements of the department of my University. After almost six and a half months of intensive searching, I found my internship at the Victoria Disability Resource Centre. It started in April and ends in August so I have one month left!

The next step was to find a wheelchair accessible accommodation and it turned out to be really difficult. With my small scholarship, I couldn’t afford to pay $4000 a month for the first place I found. There had to be an alternative. And fortunately there was, by using Cathy La France’s (Director of Programs & Services, VDRC) help I was able to stay in a sweet old age residence, which is mostly accessible. You have to expect that nothing will be exactly like home! At the same time I was trying to find further financial support. Because I am severely disabled and need 24 hour assistance as well as special equipment, I asked the German Academic Exchange Service (in German: DAAD) to support my disability-related additional needs. Originally the support would have only been a small part and the rest I would have had to pay out of my own pocket. At home I get financial assistance for everyday life at University from the Student Union. After a long battle, my additional assistance money was also approved. This was lucky; otherwise the search for appropriate assistance would have been even more difficult.

Overall, it proved to be very beneficial to start planning a year before the internship. After two years of the idea sitting in my head, what I have learned is you have to be persistent and try to influence other people that your plans are possible. I would not say the process has been easy, but with some confidence and persuasion, you can be ready for anything. The one thing I know is that I will never regret this!

-Juliane

Juliane showed perseverance in her determination to secure a worthwhile internship in her desired location.  It shows that some planning, organization and dedication can help to bring you closer to succeeding in your goals. Congratulations Juliane!

Day in the Life: Volunteer & Award Winner Kalliana King

At 11 years old, Kalliana King, a Muscular Dystrophy Canada volunteer, is the youngest to receive a 2012 Governor General’s Caring Canadian award during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on April 17, 2012.  When Kalliana was eight years old she made a goal to raise $500 for Muscular Dystrophy Canada in honour of her friend, Adam Sohye, by dyeing her hair pink and then promising to shave her hair off if she made her goal.  Kalli’s dedication and spirit inspired the community, and she ended up raising over $14,000!  Read ahead for a behind the scenes look at Kalli’s experience as one of only 28 volunteers to receive the award.

April 17, 2012:

10:00 a.m.: Kalli and her mom gather with her fellow award winners at their hotel to board a bus headed to Rideau Hall.  Kalli was the youngest winner in 2012, and she met many nice people from acrossCanada on this journey.

11:00 a.m.: After arriving at Rideau Hall, Kalli hung out with her parents before being ushered into a waiting room where she and the other award winners were given instructions on how to receive their awards.  One older lady in particular took an interest in Kalli & said she’d look after her if Kalli was feeling nervous.  Kalli told this kind lady she wasn’t nervous and asked the lady if she was nervous.  After a short conversation Kalli told the lady not to worry, and to just be herself.  The lady then burst into tears at the display of confidence Kalli showed at such a young age. After the directions were given and quickly practiced, the orchestra started to play and Kalli headed into the ceremony room.

11:30 a.m.: Kalliana was a mix of emotions—feeling both nervous and really excited—as she waited to be announced.  When Kalli’s name was called, she stood and walked toward Governor General David Johnston and his wife then Kalli stood to his right side and was handed her award.  Kalli and Governor General Johnston were meant to shake hands to end the exchange, but he ended by giving her a big old hug instead.

12:30 p.m.: Following the ceremony, Kalliana taped a video interview and posed for a group photo with her fellow award winners before enjoying a reception with lots of delicious goodies.  Kalli and her family also went on a tour of Rideau Hall, which included stops that are usually restricted to visitors.  Kalli was able to visit the ground’s greenhouse and most of the rooms inside.

2:30 p.m.: After the excitement of the ceremony, the real fun began.  Kalli got to change out of her ceremony dress, which sounded like a big relief for her.  The Kings met up with Kalli’s cousin and headed to Ottawa’s Byward Market to eat at Hard Rock Café and enjoy homemade ice cream fromSugarMountain.  Kalli’s family then headed for an afternoon tour of Ottawa including pubs, which Kalli doesn’t get a chance to do at home inCowichan Bay, BC.

The fun continued after award day as Kalli was in Ottawa for five days, her first time in our nation’s capital, and got to explore some of the museums, including the War Museum (which was special to her as her dad is in the Navy) and the Museum of Nature.  The biggest surprise came when Kalli, her mom, dad and brother, were arriving to the airport at home close to midnight. Kalli’s grandpa was expected there to pick them up, but Adam Sohye and his whole family had also come to welcome Kalli home and  show her how proud they are of her accomplishments.  Kalli and her family are dedicated participants of the Mesachie Lake Group Baseball Tournament every year, which supports Muscular Dystrophy Canada, and she creates a new idea of something to sell every year in order to continue raising funds for the cause she cares deeply about.

Winnipeg Beach Fundraiser “wheelie” good at raising the money!

Staff and students at Winnipeg Beach Elementary School recently spent a day focused on the favoured mode of transport of one of their students.  Brandon Schellenberg uses a wheelchair to get around from class to class.  So on a sunny day in May, his classmates raised enough money to “dare” their teachers to spend the day in their own wheelchairs.

Seventeen teachers and administrators took to their padded seats and rubber tires for a day of fun, fundraising, and new perspectives.  Learning how to manoeuvre between desks, get into washrooms, and keep up with their students was challenging and eye-opening, but seeing the children’s enthusiasm for the project was even more surprising.

For over an hour, students cheered on the school’s staff in the gymnasium as they were challenged to games of soccer, volleyball, and a relay.  They handed over their hard-earned funds to Muscular Dystrophy Canada, but the biggest smile in the room was on Brandon’s face.

“This is a day for Brandon,” relates his teacher “He doesn’t even want to sit in class, I found him racing wheelchairs with the principal in the hallway.”

Kristen Pachet is a Revenue Development Manager in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

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