It’s a brisk winter day in Whistler as a group of teens enjoy tubing down the mountainside. Peals of laughter punctuate the swooshing sounds of the tubes carrying their human cargo to the course’s end. But a closer look reveals these aren’t your average teenagers; they are developmentally disabled individuals on an outing offered by White Rock’s Semiahmoo House Society.
First established in the late 1950’s, Semiahmoo House Society (SHS) provides critical assistance and support to some of society’s most vulnerable people—the men, women and children who live with mental handicaps, and their families. “We believe that all our community members have a right to services such as ours, allowing them to participate in the same activities in life as their non-handicapped peers,” says Director of Development, Zena Peden. “We provide the programs and tools that support them, so they can participate in the community, make their own choices, direct their own lives, and ultimately, lead productive, healthy and fulfilling lives.”
Through the years, the services offered by Semiahmoo House Society has grown to include personal development and employment training for adults, recreation and leisure services and daycamps for children and youths, and childcare services for children aged 30 months to 12 years. “Our goal is to provide quality support and services to people with disabilities and their families in the community,” Peden says, “and that our local community contributes to—and benefits from—valuing the people we support.”
SHS programs and services help to maintain or improve the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of participants. Through the programs, individuals gain accepting, fulfilling relationships, a sense of belonging, a feeling of safety and security in their communities—and an over-all better quality of life and life-style. “For families,” says Peden, “we provide respite and reassurance, knowing their loved one is receiving quality support and care.”
There are many ways to support the Society. Interested individuals can volunteer for programs, donate or pledge financial support or employ someone with a disability. They could also become a Society member, participate in fundraising events and campaigns or help generate community awareness.
Peden says people often comment on the difference the Society makes in the lives of participants, but she sees it differently. “If asked our staff members, they would say it’s the participants who make a difference in our lives,” she says. “That’s very much the case for me.”
Semiahmoo House Society
15306 24th Avenue, Surrey