Staying Connected and Safe with Virtual Events
- July 6, 2021
For over a year we have been asked to isolate and stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19. In an attempt to stay connected with old friends, build new friendships, and create a sense of belonging, St.Amant Foundation and Volunteer Services collaborated to deliver virtual events to the people we support. These events have been a hit!
Thanks to donations, the federal government’s Emergency Community Support Fund, and a grant from the Harry E. Foster Charitable Foundation, St.Amant Foundation secured just under $20,000 for 68 virtual events scheduled until the end of June 2021. Over 2,100 people have participated in these events.
All events are free of charge. Some, such as Wednesday Zoom Bingo, are exclusively for the people St.Amant supports. However, generous funders have made it possible to open other events, such as Movement and Dance with Madison, to people supported by Abilities Manitoba and to St.Amant staff and their children. “These virtual events have built a sense of community and friendship,” said Tracy Laluk, Manager of Volunteer Services.
The most popular events are bingo, the dance parties and craft nights. St.Amant’s CEO, John Leggat, is known for enjoying the dance parties. “It’s so wonderful to see everyone from staff to the people we support get together, dance, have fun—all while staying safe,” said John. At Bingo, the level of competition is as high as the camaraderie. The event attracts around 100 people every week. “I like to play when I win!” said Darrell, a player at Wednesday Zoom Bingo.
In order to be inclusive and to breakdown financial and technological barriers, St.Amant Foundation and Volunteer Services ensured that everyone St.Amant supports, from those living in community homes to those supported at Health & Transition Services, to those living in their family homes have access to a smart TV with a web camera. “This was a small act with a very big impact,” said Juliette Mucha, Director of St.Amant Foundation. “The people we support may not be able to see their friends in-person, but at least they can see them on a screen.”
Seeing his friends is one of Darrell’s two favourite things about Wednesday Zoom Bingo. “I like to mark X on my sheet. I like seeing people on the other side!” said Darrell.
St.Amant Foundation and Volunteer Services have also distributed iPads, laptops, Kinsmen Jackpot Bingo cards, board games and Netflix subscriptions. For events such as crafts nights, they have distributed comprehensive standardized kits to everyone St.Amant supports. “The joy and excitement on their face when they realize they can keep their kits and don’t have to return them is absolutely heartwarming,” said Juliette.
After the pandemic, St.Amant plans to add a virtual component to its in-person activities. “We have learned how important it is for those who can’t always be there in-person to be connected,” said Tracy. “If, post-pandemic, we have a dance party at 440 River Road, we know that not everybody will be able to make it. So our plan is to set up the technology so that they can be there virtually and enjoy. This pandemic has given us a chance to be more inclusive and we’re going to take it.”
- June 29, 2021
Tracy lights up every room she enters. She greets everyone with a smile and makes friends wherever she goes.
She is out-going and personable and has been missing the friends she used to meet up with at St.Amant FM Café. To stay connected with the people that are important to her, she has been using Skype and email. While her verbal ability is somewhat limited, she is very proficient at using single words and gestures to get her point across. While she is very patient when people don’t understand what she is trying to say, her support team is confident that her life would be easier if she was able to receive some specialized communication tools.
St.Amant Speech Language Pathologist Signy has recommended some apps that Tracy can use on her iPad. These apps are designed to be very user-friendly and fun! They will improve her ability to share her thoughts, emotions, ideas, needs and wants with the people that are important to her.
One of these unique apps will allow Tracy to communicate in the moment, using photos she can take and tag with recordings so that communication can occur more naturally and in real time. This will help her share her experiences more easily with her friends and family.
Ease in communication leads to increased confidence and personal connections. It is not just about getting basic needs met. Improved communication will enable her to more easily express her feelings, ask questions, make jokes and socialize with the people around her.
Unfortunately, like so many specialized devices needed by people with disabilities, some of these apps are very expensive.
Communication is a fundamental human right and your donation will provide the tools Tracy needs!
You Can Help Andre Find His Voice
- June 3, 2021
Andre attends St.Amant School and he is a delightful student who works really hard. His teacher Mei Shu says: “Andre has strong motivation and ability to learn. He loves all kinds of activities in the classroom: morning routine, word searches, being the cashier in the shopping games and math! He works very hard on his academic skills.”
Andre is able to speak but his verbal ability is not always reliable and this can cause him some frustration and anxiety. His sentences are often limited to 1-2 words in length, or are a repetition of what has been said to him, but it is clear that he understands far more than he can say. He often knows what he wants and what he wants to say, but he can’t always initiate the conversation or activate his verbal language.
With the support of his teachers and St.Amant Speech Language Pathologist Lindsay, he is learning to use a variety of tools in order to increase his ability to communicate.
One such system is pretty low tech. It involves a paper based board with core vocabulary symbols (words like more, finished, like, not etc.) that can be combined to create different messages. “Because it is all printed material, we have to try to think of everything he might want to communicate and have it ready for him beforehand.” says Lindsay. This has limitations and creates some challenges. It is also cumbersome and hard to carry around.
Andre has been having great success with in the classroom with an iPad loaded with specialized communication apps. These apps provide him with a more robust set of vocabulary that he can use in any context. He’s been learning to navigate the apps to find the messages that say what he wants to say (instead of what staff “thinks” he wants to say) and he can also use the keyboard to create his own words and sentences.
Both Andre’s understanding and speaking skills improve when he has a visual cue like a photo. The device also says the word out loud and this has helped him understand and express himself more clearly as he repeats what he has heard.
Weekly speech therapy sessions and practice at school have led to some real communication gains, but having his own device would mean consistent access and much faster progress. Joyce, the school principal, says “Andre is absolutely delightful and he has come so far. Any opportunity to increase his ability to communicate and learn is much appreciated.”
If Andre had his own device, it would also mean that his family could learn to use the device with him, and improve their ability to support his communication learning.
Andre’s mom Rosemarie says she’s looking forward to having a device to use at home. It will help Andre express himself, decrease his frustration, increase his independence and encourage him to share his thoughts and feelings with his family.
Unfortunately, these specialized apps are very expensive and your help is needed. YOU can help Andre find his voice! Donate today and your gift will be matched so it will help twice as much!
Donors funded important research studying quality of life
- May 20, 2021
The St.Amant Research Centre improves the quality of life of people with developmental disabilities through research and education. Your donation helps to fund this innovative research!
Historically, people with developmental disabilities lived in congregate care settings. Over the past few decades, as the trends and rights for people with disabilities evolved, community living was identified as a more holistic and inclusive way to support people.
St.Amant has been supporting people to move into homes in the community for decades, but the focus has increased recently. Over 55 people are enjoying a greater quality of life after making the move over the past few years.
Surprisingly, little research existed about the best way to support this transition to community living and there was no data about the quality of life outcomes as a result of the move. The St.Amant Research Centre provides a complete look at these transitions and the effects they’ve had on the people involved.
The research team followed individuals from 2016-2020, both before and after their moves to community homes, to assess how this transition affected their health, access to health care and overall quality of life. The results have been overwhelmingly positive!
Study participants shared positive feedback about the change, including: he is much more independent; she seems like a different, happier person; we have be amazed at the difference it has made for our family; we are so happy with her new home!
This valuable research, funded by your donation, not only affirms that St.Amant is on the right path, but also provides valuable data about the impact of community living and the process of transition. These results have the potential to serve as a model for administrators and policy makers in Manitoba and beyond.
This research would not have happened if it wasn’t for you!
Summer Tagged Fish Contest supports St.Amant Foundation
- May 18, 2021
Buy a Falcon Lake Year Round Tagged Fish Ticket & support St.Amant while you fish this summer!
If you or someone you know visits Falcon Lake over the summer, consider purchasing a ticket to the Summer Tagged Fish Contest.
Anyone can participate, just buy your tagged fish ticket for $20 and you’ll have a chance of winning thousands of dollars for catching a fish.
$5.00 FROM EACH TICKET PURCHASED WILL BE DONATED TO ST.AMANT!
In 2017, they brought the excitement of the Winter Fish-Off to the summer by adding 6 tagged fish into Falcon Lake worth a total of $10,000! Imagine, every time you set the hook on Falcon Lake this summer you might have thousands of dollars on the end of the line!
Since 2017, they’ve added 6 more $1000 fish each year (3 Pike & 3 Bass). By June 2021 they will have put a total of 30 tagged fish in Falcon Lake for a total of $34,000!
Simply take a picture with the tagged fish, remove the tag and bring it to Ian at the Faloma Beach Marina.
Click here to purchase your ticket today!
For rules & more information click here.