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Zoombaya Wins WOW Award

A unique Communitas project has been honoured with a Community Living BC (CLBC) 2020 WOW Award. WOW stands for Widening Our World and has been presented to the creators of Zoombaya.

Zoombaya was created as a response to the forced isolation brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic. This interactive service allows staff to connect with the people they serve by engaging them in a variety of classes using the online platform, Zoom. Daily classes include mindfulness, exercise, creative projects, fun and games, cooking classes, and more. All the classes incorporate skill development, support self-care, and create social interaction. On weekends, pre-recorded materials keep individuals connected and encouraged.

Another remarkable feature of Zoombaya is that it supports people from across the Communitas spectrum: developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and acquired brain injury. Christine Petkau is the program director overseeing the specific services that make up Zoombaya. She is very proud of the three women who manage these services – Lisa McIntosh, Sheral Jones, and Vicky Manderson – and their staff teams; so much so, that she nominated them for the award.

Lisa McIntosh, Sheral Jones, Vicky Manderson, and Christine Petkau

“They have all shown real courage, both in setting aside personal anxieties for the good of the people they serve, as well as in trying something completely new,” she says.

Since its launch in June, the staff have essentially built a virtual “TV channel” from scratch, bringing their various gifts and talents to bear while teaching themselves how to use all the equipment needed to make it happen.

“None of the team felt confident in their technology skills when they started but now they tackle highly technical tasks on a daily basis,” Christine says.

The team has had to work on program design and research, content creation and episode production. They’ve learned to use mixing boards, specialized lighting and sound systems, digital cameras and more. It has been a crash course in self-taught video and live-stream creation, all of it to support the people they serve.

After all the hard work put into this new initiative, the managers say they were excited when they heard about the nomination.

“As cliché as it may sound, we were thrilled just to be nominated,” Vicky says. “It was a reflection of the faith that our program director and Communitas had in this project.”

Winners of the WOW award were chosen by an evaluation committee of community members, CLBC community council members, CLBC staff, and people served by CLBC. CLBC Community Relations person, Lisa Portellaco says it was clear in the nomination that Zoombaya has become a great source of support for individuals by offering creative and energizing programs to keep people connected and safe.

“For this and so many reasons, the evaluation committee members were able to unanimously agree that the team has worked hard to create an innovative and carefully thought out program that makes sure individuals continue to feel connected and secure while having fun, meeting new people and learning new things during this time,” she says.

When they heard that they had won, the team was astounded – and humbled. Lisa, Sheral, and Vicky give credit to their whole staff team for the ongoing success of Zoombaya, emphasizing their creativity and dedication. And, as always, they remember that it all came about because of the people they serve.

“In the beginning, we were just trying to help people stay connected,” they say. “The team ended up creating a space where people can not only connect with us and each other, but also continue to grow in their skills and abilities, and have some fun while doing it.”

Because of the pandemic, an in-person presentation of the award is not possible, so the Zoombaya team will be recognized during a teleconference call on November 26th. Congratulations to the Zoombaya team: Wes Braun, Hilda de Haan, Jonathan Goertz, Sheral Jones, Brian Kroeker, Vicky Manderson, Lisa McIntosh, Krista Petrie, Micah Reimer, and Liz Tschetter.

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