A man and woman sit together, laughing and talking.


YMCA Employment Services Build Confidence, Opportunities, and Friendships

When we think about the YMCA we think about togetherness, inclusion, and community. These values were never more evident than at our recent Y Opportunities program in Windsor-Essex. This program provides residents with a self-identified disability the opportunity to participate in a 6-week employment training program, covering topics such as job readiness, interview skills, and resumes.

Applicants come from a wide range of backgrounds and the classroom setting allows them to meet and build new relationships. COVID-19 has challenged this dynamic with the transition to online classes. Some participants feel more anxious participating online, while others find virtual communication more freeing.

During a recent class, the group discussed barriers, stigma, and areas in which they felt discriminated against (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.) A participant who uses a wheelchair for mobility bravely shared her story of exclusion, for what she felt was her entire life. At the age of 22, she felt she had never had a true friend and was only invited to family events.

This brought the group to a standstill. One of the more active participants paused and said "you have a friend in me and the rest of us in this group." She then proceeded to invite her to a social event. A smile then shone on the young woman's face and with feeling support, she began to blossom, share, and even challenge ideas.

There are many friendships and opportunities that may never have happened without the chance to come together around employment. Participants share experiences and can become a support system for each other. This is truly what the YMCA is all about!

One way the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario helps to build strong communities is by creating opportunities for youth and people with disabilities. Our Employment Services support participants in London and Windsor break barriers to employment through workshops, placements, and training.