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Employment

“Work makes me feel included…part of…the community”

Larry is a stellar YEG citizen who has been working as co-coordinator of the CommuniTEA Infusion Project since August of 2017. CommuniTEA infusion is an award winning, social change initiative, that aims to break down social barriers amongst community members with and without disabilities. The tea van visits city events and neighborhoods, creating a pop up town square like atmosphere where people gather, chat, and share in conversation over a cup of iced tea. As co-coordinator, Larry plays an instrumental role in ensuring tea van operations run smoothly. He is the go-to person at events, leading set up, the serving of tea, and take down. What follows are Larry’s reflections on his experiences with the CommuniTEA Infusion Project, Citizenship, and Employment.

Why is work important to you?

In conversation with Larry it was apparent his job with the tea van means a great deal to him. He takes his work seriously and strives to offer the highest quality service possible. Larry discussed work as an important part of life as it enables him to provide for his family and makes him feel included in community:

“To have an income source coming back home, there, for the basic needs, there…work makes me feel included…included like part of…a group or the community”

What do you like about the work you do?

“It’s been a whole different experience…I’ve never done anything like it”

Larry also described enjoying the travelling aspect of his position. With the tea van he got to go all around the city, attending different events and festivals.

“Seeing different parts of the city…parts that I’m not familiar with…for example Emily Murphy Park, I didn’t know where that was before”

What have you learned while on the job?

Larry talked a lot about meeting new people as a part of the job. He described being nervous meeting new people at first but with time and many encounters meeting new people became more comfortable.

When asked this question, Larry fondly recalled some of the encounters with others he had. He told a story about people asking for lemonade and iced tea mixed “half and half” which he thought was funny. He also spoke about the pin making machine and learning how to make it work.

What do you think CommuniTEA has to offer the community?

Larry discussed the role the van plays in sparking conversation between people stating:

“[it can] start with say small conversation or small talk and with some people it may grow from there into a possibly new friendship”

Co-coordinator Larry and Community Builder Vincent working the van

Larry’s reflections remind us of the important role meaningful employment plays in an individual’s sense of community belonging. Contributing to community is a key component of engaged citizenship. As Larry’s story demonstrates, individuals with disabilities have many unique gifts and talents to offer their communities. We are proud to showcase Larry’s experience as one of many stories of engaged citizenship within Skills Society.

This story brought to you by:

Paige Reeves

Co-coordinator, CommuniTEA Infusion Project