Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Network offers employment options

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TRACEY Needham has spent the last four years trying to open people's minds. And the executive director of the Transcona-Springfield Employment Network, along with her team of employees, has succeeded.

Since the non-profit organization began offering its services in 1999, Needham and her team have found employment for many young people with developmental disabilities.

TSEN also provides education and support for individuals and families living with developmental disabilities. It operates in conjunction with the Association of Community Living, another city advocacy group.

Needham admits she has had to fight public misconceptions, but manages to conquer most.

"There are typical stereotypes people have about those with developmental disabilities. They are afraid of these people or think they just can't do the job," says Needham. "But when you see a person as individual and unique, as we all are, you see their gifts.

"So, if a person has a particular gift -- such as being welcoming to people -- then we try to use these strengths."

Needham provides her clients with jobs located within northeast Winnipeg, but can also find jobs for people throughout the city. Depending on the case, TSEN job coaches work with individuals on the job.

Employers usually pay minimum wage and are sometimes subsidized by TSEN.

"The community can be welcoming of people with disabilities. We've made some really good contacts over the years," says Needham, adding that job experience boosts her clients' self-esteem.

Darryl Kit, 25, is one such person. The young man has been working with TSEN since 1999 and now works several jobs. He works at Tim Hortons, does custodial work and volunteers with Meals on Wheels, says Kit's mother, Kimberly Kit.

She says the TSEN programs are far less segregated than the other programs she and her son have worked with in the past.

"TSEN afforded Darryl more choices to make decisions for himself," says the Oakbank resident. "I found that it made him more self-confident. It gave him more self-esteem because he was making his decisions for himself. It helped him deal with everyday life."

Kit says her son recently moved out of her home and is enjoying his independence.

"TSEN had a big influence on him. They just boost him, give him ideas and generally help him to where he wants to go," she says, adding that the people he works for are more than accommodating.

"Darryl has lots of skills and is physically able," she says. "Sometimes it may take a little more patience to train him. But it makes a big difference in his life."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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