“I can definitely say that without CLBC’s support towards my son’s needs, I would not have been able to pursue my other interests, broaden my horizons and in the process make the world a better place,” says Rachelle Rasolofo Czerwinski of Vancouver, B.C.
Rachelle’s son Nicholas began receiving supports from Community Living BC (CLBC) after graduating from high school in 2008. While ensuring supports for Nicholas, she has been pursuing philanthropic projects, including efforts to help people and communities in her native Madagascar, an island nation off Africa’s south eastern coast.
In the spirit of United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is celebrated every December 3, Rachelle’s efforts, both across the world in Madagascar and in Vancouver, are helping to building strong and supportive communities for everyone.
Rachelle is the driving force behind the Madagascar Green Community Project, which launched in 2007. The project facilitates numerous endeavors to assist the Malagasy people in Madagascar to become economically self-reliant while at the same time respecting the environment. These include initiatives like community gardens, eco-friendly solar cooking and small business training.
“This is really important to help small communities become more independent and also make a sustainable living,” she says. The project is supported by a team of volunteers and Rachelle, who is currently in Madagascar supporting the project. She also coordinates an annual fundraising dinner each August in Vancouver to raise awareness of the project and gather donations.
Support from CLBC for Nicholas has played an important role in allowing Rachelle to improve his quality of life and focus on helping others – something deeply important to her. “To know that my son’s needs were covered gave me the freedom to do other things than being a caregiver,” she says. “Of course I am involved in my son’s life, just as any good parent would be, but he has his life and I have mine. Thanks to the supports and services from CLBC, Nicholas can enjoy a full life.”
Like his mom, Nicholas also takes an interest in making his community more welcoming and in bringing people together. “With his worker, he goes into the community and is a big supporter of the street musicians down at Granville Island. He has a whole collection of CDs that he received as a token of their appreciation. He also recently started a program to visit isolated seniors in his neighbourhood.”
In addition to her international philanthropic work, Rachelle has also been actively involved in the community living field in Vancouver. She has supported other families as a resource parent with the Family Support Institute, and won an FSI award in 2014 for her outstanding volunteer work with families. She also served as a member of the Vancouver CLBC Community Council and as an Inclusion BC family representative for the national family leadership program. With other parents, Rachelle set up the Vancouver Parents Transition Group, and was the group’s first coordinator from 2006 to 2009.
“I’m glad to see that the group continues to meet monthly and continues helping other parents with resources and connections,” she says.
As a parent who has gone through the transition process, Rachelle is always happy to share her advice with other families to begin as early as possible, “You can begin getting prepared as early as early as Grade 8. Use the ‘Transitioning Timeline’ on the CLBC website which is very useful as it tells families what to do all the way through high school and after. Be persistent, be creative and connect with other families!”
As for what the future holds, Rachelle is already busy planning her next project, which will be writing a family memoir about her life with Nicholas through six countries in 17 years.
This Project has been delivering powerful results since it began in 2007 with the goal of providing sustainable assistance to communities in Madagascar.
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December 3 marks the annual United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). This day raises awareness of the importance of inclusion and celebrates the contributions of people with diverse abilities in every aspect of community, and has been celebrated each year since 1992.