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Weekly Speaker Program

January 27, 2020: Wendy McDonald, Inclusion Alberta/Rotary Employment Partnership

Bill Dowhaluk introduced our speaker, Wendy McDonald, the COO of Inclusion Alberta.

"Inclusion Alberta is a family-based non-profit federation that advocates on behalf of children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families. Together, we share a dream of meaningful family life and community inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities. As an advocacy organization we support families and individuals in their desire to be fully included in community life."

After attending an RI conference in 2000 in Buenos Aires, Wendy was inspired to do something to help people with developmental disabilities to find meaningful employment and become contributing members of society. The key driver for her efforts is that her son Kyle has a developmental disability.

Wendy is a Rotarian from Edmonton. She established the District 5370 Rotary Employment Partnership with Inclusion Alberta (40 organizations) and the Alberta Government. District 5360 followed, and there are now 35 Rotary clubs in Alberta that are actively participating. She noted there are now efforts in New Zealand and Australia, and the Cayman Islands are due to start this March.

So why is finding employment for those with developmental disabilities important? Jobs bring identity, purpose, belonging and self value. These people can, and want to, work. Her son Kyle dreams to have a career, earn income and make a contribution and become a valued community member. Kyle is realising this dream working for WestJet. 80% of people with developmental disabilities are unemployed, and they need a hand up.

Thus far, 570 jobs have been created in Alberta, 75 in Calgary.

What's in it for the employers? These people are committed, long-term employees which results in less turnover. 87% of clients prefer to deal with businesses that hire disabled employees. Further, ongoing support is provided by Inclusion Alberta to deal with any issues with the employees.

To bring it close to home, Wendy called Bill Dowhaluk back to the podium. Bill told us the story of his son Mitch. Because of the program, Mitch now is an employee at Price Waterhouse Cooper. He thanked Rotary for their participation, and indeed this is the main reason for him joining our Rotary club.

Wendy noted that our Premier has hired a receptionist through the program.

We were then treated to a couple of short videos that showed interviews with employers and employees, illustrating the value of hiring someone with developmental disabilities.

Wendy said she needs us to:

  • Introduce the concept to your network
  • Have our club set a commitment with a target for new jobs
  • Consider it for your own business
  • Make donations of clothing and household items

Alex McFadden, who, along with Bill, is the club contact for the Partnership, presented Wendy with a Boltman - noting that the information on the base could use a little work!

  • Alex McFadden, Wendy McDonald, and Bill Dowhaluk Alex McFadden, Wendy McDonald, and Bill Dowhaluk

reported by Duncan Stanners

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