Characters

Principal Characters

 ASHER

Asher Johnson

Diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Asher truly embodies an unstoppable and entrepreneurial spirit. With the support and assistance of his parents, he has started his own company, Asher’s Amazing Popcorn, and has refused to let labels or challenges prevent him from following his dreams.

“You want butter or without butter?” — Asher Johnson

JOCELYN

Jocelyn Thompson

With her humour and kindness, Jocelyn has worked hard to create possibility for herself. Living with William’s syndrome has resulted in some limitations, however Jocelyn feels very lucky for the life that she has and continues to plan and dream for the future. She loves her job at CBI Health and is very thankful for all that it has brought into her life.

“My future is going to find myself a boyfriend, get married, move, have kids and then try to get a dream job.” — Jocelyn Thompson

JUNAID

Junaid Abbasi

Junaid was born breech and suffered from seizures at a young age, leaving him with developmental delays. He now works full-time as a labourer for Mammoet, an engineering and heavy lifting company. His contribution to his workplace is not just seen through his excellent job performance, his supervisors and co-workers are grateful for the happiness he carries with him and shares every day. He loves his job because it gives him a sense of place and meaning.

“I work here Monday to Friday, five days a week. It’s really good here. I like it.” — Junaid Abbasi

NICOLE

Photo: Alejandra Pavez

Nicole Almberg

Nicole takes her position on the production team at the Organic Box very seriously. Born with Down syndrome, she has a strong sense of self that her parents began to foster at a young age. Starting out at the Organic Box with little work experience, Nicole quickly showed that, with the right guidance and tasks, she is a hard-worker who brings humour and dedication to all that she does.

“I am the one who is responsible for my job and I’m taking things seriously.” — Nicole Almberg

SEAN

Photo: Alejandra Pavez

 

Sean Irwin

Diagnosed with autism and childhood-onset schizophrenia, Sean has found the perfect fit in his position at the Whitemud Equine Centre. Calling himself a “jack-of-all-trades,” his calm demeanor is appreciated by both the animals he works with as well as his co-workers. After many years of struggling to find employment, Sean has found community, purpose, and joy through his job as well as a sense hope for the future.

“I realized very quickly that horses are extraordinarily smart, in fact, way smarter than I had actually originally thought.” — Sean Irwin

TERRANCE

Photo: Alejandra Pavez

 

Terrance Jeffery

Thrilled to be working at the Bonton Bakery after years of hardship, Terrance has new aspirations to one day have a career as a baker. Having survived multiple bouts of pneumonia as a child, he was left with cognitive challenges that have impacted his ability to find lasting employment. After years of hardship, barely able to survive on social assistance, he now has a sense of purpose, value, and an improved quality of life.

“When I’m working, well then I feel more better about myself.” — Terrance Jeffery

Supporting Characters

Hilton Dinner

Owner and Terrance’s boss,  Bonton Bakery

As the owner of the Bonton Bakery, Hilton is always impressed with Terrance’s efficiency. As a result, he never shies away from assigning Terrance new duties and giving him opportunities to grow.

“We think it’s really important to be able to include people no matter what their circumstance where we can.” —Hilton Dinner

 

Renate Burwash

Director of Employment Services, Gateway Association (Terrance)

Renate is the Director of Employment Services for the Gateway Association, an organization focused on providing opportunities for a better life for people with disabilities and their families. Renate has found jobs for Sean and Nicole in Edmonton.

“We think of ourselves as a very holistic organization, so what we do is we work with the job seeker really just to get to know them as best as we can.” — Renate Burwash

 

Ben Dorman

Asher’s Father

Ben is incredibly proud of Asher for overcoming his challenges and following his passion for popcorn to create his own company.

“Asher’s working and he’s working on something that he really enjoys doing.” — Ben Dorman

 

Catriona Johnson

Asher’s Mother

Catriona believes strongly in two things, that everybody can work and that families of people living with intellectual disabilities are the largest stakeholders in their success. As a result, she has worked tirelessly to advocate for Asher as well as joining together with other families to create the organization Inclusion Works! Victoria.

“It taught me that there was more to it than this, it was more than, okay, this was just a job. It was something that he was getting a lot back from, from a social point of view and from a self-esteem point of view.” — Catriona johnson

 

Shirley Giske

Jocelyn’s Grandmother

A source of support for Jocelyn since she was born, Shirley is a huge support to Jocelyn and is grateful for the future she will have because of her employment opportunities.

“Special needs people who don’t have family or parents to look out, my heart goes out, bleeds for them, because they’re going to have a very rough time.” — Shirley Giske

 

Paula Shaw

Employment Facilitator, Inclusion Works! Victoria
(Asher & Jocelyn)

Paula works with participants, support workers, and families in the Victoria area to find inclusive employment opportunities that meet the skills and interests of those involved. Paula has helped to find jobs for Asher and Jocelyn in Victoria.

“Things are much different now for people with developmental disabilities or intellectual disabilities. The funding is way reduced for them, so probably, it’s smart financially to get a job.” – Paula Shaw

Jamie Dunnett

Clinic Manager, Physiotherapist, CBI Health Centre Saanich

As Jocelyn’s employer, Jamie is a huge believer not only in inclusive hiring, but also in acknowledging the work of his employees. He values the hard work and enthusiasm that Jocelyn brings to the workplace everyday.

“I also think it’s a win for society at large, in the sense that a healthy community benefits when all of it’s members have an opportunity to participate to their fullest potential.” — Jamie Dunnett

 

COLLEEN

Colleen Irwin

Sean’s Mother

Colleen Irwin is Sean’s mother. She hopes to help Sean build a strong foundation on which to build his future and is very happy he has found so much joy in his work at the Whitemud Equine Centre.

“I know how it feels to watch a boy who is healthy, able-bodied and nice, just wasting away. I didn’t know what to do.” — Colleen Irwin

 

Lynda Tennessen

Lesson Program Manager, Whitemud Equine Learning Centre (Sean)

Lynda loves having Sean’s calm demeanor at the stables, and recognizes it is a gift to both the staff and the animals he cares for everyday.

“The challenges with Sean, is for us to learn how he processes things with his disability.” — Lynda Tennessen

 

Lori Almberg

Nicole’s Mother

Lori is Nicole’s mother. Through her experience raising a child with Down syndrome she has learned the importance of seeing every individual as unique.

“Having a child with Down syndrome has been an incredible challenge but it’s also been incredibly rewarding.” — Lori Almberg

 

Guy Almberg

Nicole’s Father

Nicole’s father, Guy, has given Nicole the gift of believing in her abilities since she was born, never failing to encourage her to strive for more for herself and to contribute to the community.

“Since Nicole started working; Nicole is, I think, more engaged in life. She’s more optimistic; she loves getting up, going out the door to see what presents itself.” — Guy Almberg

 

ABBIE

Abbie Stein-MacLean

General Manager, Organic Box (Nicole)

Proud of their holistic business style at the Organic Box, Abbie believes that Nicole is a great addition to the production team and a perfect example of why inclusive hiring works.

“Nicole works on the production team, which is the box packing team, and she would undertake any of the tasks that a normal production team member would take on.” — Abbie Stein-MacLean

 

MIKEY

Mikey Muskat

Nicole’s Co-worker

Mikey has been Nicole’s mentor and friend at the Organic Box, showing her the ropes and helping her find fun and laughter in her job.

“We get along great, she’s really fun to talk to and I really just see her as another employee really, another friend here at the Organic Box.” — Mikey Muskat

 

Vickie Mancini

Manager of Employment Supports, Gateway Association (Nicole)

Vickie is the Manager for Employment Services with the Gateway Association. She worked with Nicole to find her the right fit at the Organic Box.

“[People with disabilities have] been opted out, really, of employment, and so that was her biggest barrier.” — Vickie Mancini

 

Nasreen Abbasi

Junnaid’s Mother

Nasreen thinks of her son, Junaid, as a gift from God. She is grateful for the support Junaid has found at Mammoet and how it has helped him mature and grow.

“I feel very proud. I feel for Junaid so proud, but I am myself so proud that I have a son, who can, he has a disability but he doing so good. He’s very good person.” — Nasreen Abbasi

 

Marc Biollo

Chief Marketing Coordinator, Chrysalis (Junaid)

As the Chief Marketing Officer for Chrysalis, Mark is able to work closely with people with disabilities to provide training and vocational opportunities.

“This job is important to Junaid because it gives him meaning.” — Marc Biollo

 

JOERY

Joery Van Vlierdan

Managing Director, Mammoet (Junaid)

Joery is Junaid’s supervisor at Mammoet and recognizes the benefit to both the company and the employees found through inclusive hiring.

“This is a real job, there is three people involved, seven and a half hours per day, five days a week.” — Joery Van Vlierdan