Toni’s brain injury changed her life.
Eleven years ago, she was working as an operating room technician, a vocation that requires mental acuity and physical stamina. After she sustained a brain injury, her cognitive and physical challenges meant she was unable to return to her job.
An acquired brain injury is damage to the brain caused by a traumatic event, such as a blow to the head, or a non-traumatic event, such as a stroke. Brain injury is one of the leading causes of disability and can completely alter the way people live their lives.
“When I was ready to return to work, I needed to find something that would challenge my new mind and body,” Toni said. “One of the consequences of my injury was the loss of my sense of smell and taste. I had always been a good cook but now my injury meant that I had to learn how to cook by following a recipe and using exact measurements.”
Toni enrolled in a food service skills training and employment program offered by the Cridge Centre for the Family in Victoria. It is one of 16 projects funded by the Province last year to celebrate AccessAbility Week. She received 12 weeks of training in all aspects of food services through a program that aims to remove employment barriers for individuals living with a brain injury.
Working alongside eight other brain injury survivors, Toni describes how she had to learn to work in a commercial kitchen safely and efficiently.
“I’ve learned how to supervise and be a part of a small crew of my brain injured brethren as we provide a hot lunch for secondary students four times a week. My crew and I work hard to make sure the kids have a hot meal and a warm smile to get through the rest of their day.” She said she also had to “trust in my new abilities and skills to make a tasty meal.”
Programs like the food service skills training do not just teach important skills, promote confidence and build stamina, they also provide connection, community and purpose for people living with a brain injury.
As Toni puts it, “I really don’t know what my life would have become without this program. It has literally saved my life and given me a purpose and reason to get up every day. I am challenged every day and use all the skills daily. I feel so happy and fulfilled and tired, all at the same time. I love going into the cold kitchen with my crew and transforming it into a warm, bustling space filled with laughter and love and lots of food.”
In recognition of AccessAbility Week, May 31 to June 6, 2020, the B.C. government is highlighting some of the individuals and organizations that provide important services to people with disabilities.
B.C. government accessibility initiatives: www.gov.bc.ca/accessibility
Cridge Centre for the Family: https://cridge.org/
BC AccessAbility Week 2020: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020SDPR0031-000964
Disability Alliance BC: www.disabilityalliancebc.org