What is your calling in life? What do you want to be when you grow up? Some of us know the answer to those questions from early childhood. Others take more time to get there, exploring several career paths along the way. For Abigail Guenette, her calling was so much a part of her life that, until recently, she didn’t realize that it could also be her career.
Abigail works as a Support Worker with Communitas Supportive Care Society. As a Support Worker, she supports people living with developmental disabilities so that they are able to live a rich and abundant life. The role comes easily to Abigail because her brother, Alexander, also lives with disabilities. While life was sometimes challenging at times, Alexander taught his sister how to be patient, compassionate, and the value of looking on the bright side.
“Alexander and I have a special bond but growing up as his sister didn’t feel particularly special, it was just normal,” she explains. “I was often the one who would look after him. We joked in our family that I was like a second mom to him.”
Abigail has many interests including travel and exploring other cultures. So when she graduated from high school, she enrolled in Intercultural Studies, reasoning that this would be a great way to marry those two passions in terms of education and possibly a career. But in her second year of university, things began to unravel.
“I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anxiety. It got to the point where I had no choice but to quit school because I couldn’t get out of bed, let alone keep up with assignments and classes,” she says.
It took Abigail nearly a year to get to the point where she could look to the future again. She enrolled in an employment program, one that helped her explore her leadership style, communication skills, and personality strengths.
“It became glaringly obvious to me during this time that I was meant to work with people in a caregiver capacity and that people living with disabilities was a primary focus,” she explains. “My experience with Alexander has helped me develop my gift for relating to and interacting with people who live with disabilities.”
Alexander has accessed services through Communitas for several years and so Abigail was already familiar with the organization. She was so happy to be hired as a Support Worker and loves her work and the people she serves.
“What I love the most are the genuine interactions you can have. There are no fake smiles, no superficiality that we tend to put up with (in society in general,)” she says. “It is so much fun to simply hang out and enjoy one another’s company.”
Tanya manages the home where Abigail works. She confirms Abigail’s natural gifts are very much suited to being a Support Worker.
“She is always open to new ideas, new activities, and is patient and welcoming to staff and people we serve alike,” Tanya says.
When Tanya became aware of an opening in the Communitas Manager In Training (MIT) program, she recommended Abigail immediately.
“Abigail is hard-working, motivated, friendly, smart, sharp, has common sense, and yet is not afraid to be silly and have fun,” Tanya says, with a smile. “She builds relationships with each individual based on their needs. She is eager to learn and you can see that she very much cares about the people we serve.”
As she reflects on her experiences, Abigail is grateful for the way her family life experiences have shaped her and given her this unique career opportunity.
“I was meant to be a “caregiver” and growing up with my brother developed in me a gift for relating to and interacting with those who have disabilities,” she reflects. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to bring those gifts to a career.”
John and his daughter, Himali both work for Communitas. Though their work is in different settings, they’ve had the same meaningful career experience.
When Adria reflects on her journey towards mental wellness, she recognizes that the journey began with a reconnection to her indigenous roots.