Blessed to be here
An audit can be an intimidating thing and is usually met with feelings of trepidation. But when the four peer reviewers from the Council on Accreditation (COA) visited Communitas over four days in June it felt more like an opportunity to share and learn. It also turned out to be a blessing.
“We were all very impressed with your commitment to your mission and values and for your dedication to the people you serve,” said Connie Mitchell, the reviewer from Arizona who served as team leader. “We each saw how you are living that out daily.”
This is the fourth accreditation process for Communitas and each review is a learning opportunity for everyone involved. Accreditation with COA happens on a four year cycle and involves a thorough audit of an organization including services to individuals, finances, risk management, human resources, and much more. Preparation for COA takes nearly a year before the peer reviewers arrive to visit various locations throughout the organization.
The four reviewers who visited Communitas this year came from Alberta, Arizona and New York and were all people who work or have worked for like organizations. They reviewed files, data bases, and manuals. They visited residences and services provided in Vancouver Island, Chilliwack and Abbotsford. They met with board members, staff, and people served by Communitas and their families. Each reviewer had positive things to say.
“We hear a lot of terms in this sector like ‘person-centred’, ‘person-driven’, or ‘individualized’, but you don’t just say it, you do it,” said reviewer Anne Marie Appel who visited residential and day services on Vancouver Island and respite and home share services in Abbotsford.
Peter Portlock was tasked with reviewing materials and systems that others might find “dry”: finances, human resources, risk management, and administration. In each area he felt that the organization was on sound, solid footing. But he didn’t simply spend time looking at spread sheets. Peter also visited a number of programs and in each place he visited, he was moved by the kindness he saw in staff interactions with people served. He also felt that the organization was in good hands moving forward with a young workforce being trained to carry the work of Communitas forward.
“I’ve never seen a better matched workforce for the work you do,” he said. “You have a competent, capable team of people who serve with care and compassion.”
Mike McCourt agreed. His interactions with individuals served revealed that they felt honoured and respected and that their voice was heard. He was also impressed by the creative ways in which staff sought to bring to life the ideas of those they served, citing film projects done through Community Inclusion and the recent fashion show put on by Choices and Connections.
“I’m richer for this experience, enriched by what you’re sharing with clients but also by what you’re receiving from them,” he said.
Karyn Santiago, the chief executive officer for Communitas, thanked the reviewers for making the process an enjoyable one and for sharing their time with us.
“Accreditation is a whole team effort,” she said. “The results of this review are a testimony to the many staff members and volunteers, contractors, families and supported individuals who ensure abundant life for all abilities. We heard that affirmation loud and clear.”
Karyn presented each reviewer with a Communitas mug, made by people with diverse abilities at JustPotters in Vancouver.
In closing, Connie explained that the review team would submit their report to COA and that if there were things to respond to, Communitas would have the opportunity to do so – but she also told Karyn not to “lose any sleep.”
“We can all say ‘a job well done’”, Connie said. “We are blessed to have been here.”