Part of the Family – Stewart’s Story
For the last three years, Stewart has found a home at Communitas Social Enterprises (CSE), working at ShredMasters. It’s been a job unlike any he’s ever had before.
“When I go to work, I’m not coming to a job, I’m going to see my family,” he says. “That’s what it’s like here. You’re part of the family.”
In 2017, Stewart graduated from the Support Towards Employment Program (STEP), a program of Communitas Supportive Care Society. He was hired by ShredMasters, one of several enterprises operated by CSE that offer employment and training to individuals with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges or acquired brain injury.
Recognizing the impact that employment plays in one’s quality of life, CSE strives to create an environment where people find meaningful work and receive the supports that they need to be successful. STEP and CSE are employment focused programs setup in partnership with Fraser Health, Rehabilitation and Recovery Services to provide employment supports or permanent employment to individuals living with mental health challenges.
Stewart credits the culture of care at Communitas for his extraordinary employment experience. He feels valued as an employee and as a person. For someone living with mental health challenges, this is particularly important. Stewart lives with depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He’s had a hard time learning to trust, to express his feelings in a positive way and to forgive himself. For a while, alcohol became the vehicle to numb the buried feelings within. But when you meet Stewart today, you see a positive, hard-working person who has learned to be honest with himself and to focus on wellness. Having meaningful work, with an encouraging boss and a positive environment has made an enormous difference to him.
“Working here has made me healthier,” he says. “I can come to work and talk about anything and know that my boss will understand. I still have issues with PTSD but I’ve received so much support here, it’s really helped me.”
The sense of family inspires Stewart to do his best – no one wants to disappoint mom and dad, he explains. His colleagues are like siblings to him. He notes that on the rare occasion when he’s been sick, his workmates have called him to make sure he’s okay.
“You just don’t find that anywhere else. I’ve never had a job like this before.”
Because his boss and his fellow employees care about him, it makes him want to give back. He takes pride in doing his work well and always wants to improve.
“The company has invested in me so I want to invest back,” he explains. “It gives me a sense of purpose. When I get home, I’m good and tired and I appreciate my days off but I’m always looking forward to coming back to work.”
Another motivation to stay healthy is his family. Having grown up in an abusive family situation, he wants something better for his own children and to set a good example for them. He also acknowledges the role of medication and the importance of a good psychiatrist to help him maintain his mental health. Having meaningful work, structure to his day, in a positive environment has been vital to his sense of well being.
Stewart loves his job at ShredMasters so much that he wears his vest and nametag home. It gives him a sense of belonging.
“I love it here, I would stay here forever,” he says, wistfully. “I’m part of something that I’ve never had before, being part of this family. I’m so glad I’m here.”