Garth Homer Society Goes Global with Online Learning Platform

January 18, 2021 / by United Way

Developmentally disabled community connected through new website funded by United Way

Saanich, BC – Greater Victoria’s Garth Homer Society has launched a new online platform to connect adults with developmental disabilities with online programs and activities, helpful COVID-19 resources, and each other to reduce isolation and create a sense of community.

The lifestreams.ca website, which launched just before Christmas, is one of the first to bring together support information, learning models on finding employment, and live events such as art lessons specially created for developmentally disabled adults. It was made possible thanks to a $45,000 grant from United Way Greater Victoria.

“As we started gathering material for the website, we quickly discovered a lack of resources that were both accessible and age-appropriate,” said Geoffrey Ewert, the Society’s Director, Learning and Employment Services. “Much of the available information was targeted at children, so the team took on the task of developing a lot of the website’s content from the ground up. We wanted to provide resources that were accessible and enjoyable for users, while at the same time maintaining their dignity as adults.”

The site was built with a more global audience in mind, and based on the kinds of needs witnessed with the Greater Victoria residents who would normally attend the society’s day programs in person. While lifestreams.ca sprang out of the challenge of maintaining connections to peers and to learning during the pandemic, its goals aim far beyond. The plan is to continue the development of the website as an online hub for LifeStreams services, providing specialized post-secondary learning programs that can be accessed by other service providers across Canada and beyond.

An advisory committee of Garth Homer clients helped shape the look, usability, and accessibility of the new site to make sure it was a fit for users from their community.

“Inclusion should always be a top priority, and when it comes to building something for a community, voices from within that community are crucial to include in the conversation,” said Jen Thorndale, the LifeStreams Program Leader at the Society. “Our Garth Homer participant consultants brought forth so many great ideas and insights into how to make this site really work for the whole community and kept accessibility, functionality, and also a bit of fun at the forefront. With their contributions, we have created an engaging, inclusive and accessible online hub where adults of all abilities can feel independent in exploring learning, resources and virtual connection.”

The site is designed around the Garth Homer Society’s LifeStreams Learning program and its approaches that infuse everything the society does as well as the new website, based on five pillars of learning – academics, body and health, community, purpose, and self. This helps foster adaptability and independent-minded individuals able to handle new and changing circumstances, like the social isolation of a pandemic.

In addition to funding the website development, United Way’s grant also enabled the hiring of local artists and performers for the live events.

“United Way has been a funding partner of the Garth Homer Society in our community for many years. We are proud to provide support as it pivots in response to COVID-19,” said Mark Breslauer, CEO, United Way Greater Victoria. “We are pleased to see the kind of impact that lifestreams.ca is having on local families and, as an added bonus, the potential to assist people from all over the world.”

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For more information:

Jason Keenan
jason@ascentgr.com
Phone: (604) 218-7188

Heather Skydt
United Way Greater Victoria
heather@uwgv.ca
Mobile: 250-686-3606
Office: 250-984-2269

About the Garth Homer Society:

The Garth Homer Society provides day services and programming through seven different community and employment programs within Greater Victoria for adults with developmental disabilities. Our job every day is to work with members of the Garth Homer family to help them be everything that they can be, to the very best of their abilities, and in the unique and often wonderful ways that are best suited to them.

About United Way Greater Victoria:

United Way is a trusted leader, influencer and catalyst for change. In response to COVID-19, we are focusing our efforts on urgent community needs such as mental health outreach services and counselling, meals and companionship for isolated seniors, and essentials for families in need. United, we accelerate change to improve the lives of our neighbours who need it most, making our local community stronger. We believe everyone in Greater Victoria should have the opportunity to reach their potential. Our vision is to build a safe and resilient community where happiness and belonging connect us. Last fiscal year United Way raised $4.7 million thanks to over 7,000 donors and over 250 workplaces opening their offices to run employee giving programs. These funds allowed United Way to support over 90,000 people. Show your local love today by making a gift to United Way at uwgv.ca.