Community News                                          Sunday June 13th 2010

Helping people cope


The Invisible Disability

Chilliwack Brain Injury Drop-In Centre a community blessing

Craig Hill/Voice 



                                                                                                            Craig Hill/Voice photos

FVBIA Executive Director, Carol Paetkau at Drop-In Centre.


ave you ever met a paranoid schizophrenic? Chances are you have and didn't know it. It's something that isn't always discernable in people. It's a hidden illness that manifests itself in ways the average, untrained person wouldn't understand.


Last Tuesday, about 30-40 normal-looking people helped celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Chilliwack Brain Injury Drop-In Centre. The party was a western-themed event and clients wore cowboy hats and bandanas. They put on a great spread with entertainment by country singer Adrianna Brooks.


Steven Sykorsky is a strong-looking guy of about 25, with arms the size of most people's legs, sat on the sofa, hooting and hollering and generally having a good time. He's a relative newcomer to the Centre and said he's brain injured but added that he hasn't been fully diagnosed yet. Currently he works as a sign waver for Little Cesars.


"I'm a paranoid schizophrenic with the Transition Learning Program." said Sykorsky while doing a strongman pose for the camera.


For the average person, it can be intimidating to be face-to-face with a hooting, paranoid schizophrenic the size of a small Mac truck with        Steven Sykorsky hams it up for the camera.

arms the size of most

people's legs. You don't really know what to expect.


The mostly female staff have no problem dealing with the mood disorders they encounter on daily at the Centre. They are trained and specialize in working with people who have a variety of brain disorders helping them to maintain.


Founding Director, Ester Tremblay, opened the Drop-In ten-years ago, couldn't see herself doing anything else.


"I love my job, I wouldn't trade it," she said. "It's so rewarding when you see people succeed and achieve what they want and follow their dream."


The Centre has about 76 clients and four case managers that assist clients who come in for lunch twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The lunches are an opportunity for members to connect with other members and network with other organizations as well.


"They come to break the isolation bascially," said Tremblay. "It's to gather together, be social, interact and to know that you're not alone here."

City Councillor Stewart McLean and BIA Director, Kathy Funk were also at the celebration.


Coun. McLean said he has done volunteer work and becaus of that has very particular credentials. "I'm certified with the Canadian Association of Rehabilitation Professionals and have negotiated contracts with Fraser Health and other government organizations," said            Coun. Stewart McLean at the Centre Tuesday.  McLean. "I've also         

done one-on-one work with individuals in the community.


He began working in the social work aspect in Chilliwack since 1974, moved away from the city for job changes and then moved back in the late 1990s


A lot of these individuals at the Centre are McLean's personal friends and he tries to find time in his busy schedule to stop by and have coffee with them.


"It's an organization that I have a lot of empathy for and I believe that the individuals here have many struggles in their lives and I'd just like to see them enjoying their lives to the fullest, and any little thing I can do to help along the way, I'm glad to do it," said Mclean.

BIA director Kathy Funk were among those enjoying

lunch at the Centre on Tuesday.


The Drop-In Centre partners with the Fraser Valley Brain Injury Association (FVBIA) who operate under the Communitas Supportive Care Society umbrella organization, offer an array of services.


The FVBIA is a charitable organization who have been giving support to people with acquired brain injuries and their families since 1997.


"We offer case management, which is basically one-on-one support, dealing with major crisis issues, finding resources in the community and avoid getting into issues with the justice system," said FVBIA Executive Director, Carol Paetkau. "We also offer a variety of art and photography programs throughout the Fraser Valley."


"Communitas was so gracious when we first started 12-years ago, we had no infrastructure, we had no staffing, and they told us that if we were able to get funding together, that they would provide a drop-in centre for us, so they've been wonderful, it's been a great partnership," said Paetkau.


Communitas is and umbrella organization who partners with other agencies in the community to deliver services in the areas of developmental disabilities, mental health, group homes, acquired brain injury and fetal alcohol disorder.


Together the groups advocate for those people with brain disorders and offer training, rehabilitation, housing, recreational and social activities for clients.


In 2009, the FVBIA lost it's art program and according to Paetkau, Fraser Health was very supportive and came through with some of the funding so the program could be restarted.


The Centre offers different programs like "In The Now" and a pre-employment "Community Mentors" service. Some clients who frequent the Centre are non-verbal and require extra care, but many are out in the community working through the Mentors program.


"It's a starting point for some of them, because they don't believe in themselves anymore, their self esteem has been crushed," said Tremblay. "It's a place where they can resource and discover who they are now, get their strength and try new stuff."


Coming soon on the agenda for the Centre is Zoo Access Day where clients are taken to the zoological centre.


On August 27th, Communitas is having its first Walk & Roll fundraiser in Abbotsford, 2:00 pm at Mill Lake Park. It's open to all family members. Participants will be able to choose between doing the 5K (2.5 laps around the lake) or 10K (5 laps). There will be prizes, although this is not a race. The emphasis will be on supporting each other with healthy choices, like exercising and fostering great relationships. There will be a BBQ with live music afterward.



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Chilliwack Brain Injury Drop-In Centre Director, Ester Tremblay. (above)

Drop-In Center member, Steven Sykorsky tries to impersonate a WWF wrestler by looking scarey

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