Emily and her sister have had to grow up fast. In their neighbourhood, many kids do.
Five year old Emily and her 8 year old sister are often responsible for waking up and getting ready for school by themselves, as their mother works the night shift at the hospital. She knows that her mother is working hard to provide a happy home for her and her sister but wishes that they could spend more time together.
What is a typical day for Emily? She and her sister Katie, wake up every morning and head to their United Way supported before-school breakfast program, often times while it is still dark out, where they meet their friends and grab a nutritious breakfast to start their day.
Sometimes, when the weather is unpredictable, they are allowed to take a coat, hat, shoes or mitts from the clothing room. Emily likes adding to her wardrobe, especially if it helps her keep warm and dry. After breakfast they have a chance to play in the gymnasium while they wait for the bus to arrive to take them to school.
Throughout the day Emily makes sure she eats her snacks and lunch that she is provided by the school nutrition program. When the bell rings at the end of the day, she heads to another United Way supported agency where she has a quick snack before she begins her homework. She is always so excited when she gets one of her answers correct, especially on her spelling tests.
When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Emily answers “I want to be a teacher at my school.” Emily is a very independent 5 year old and because of the vast network of United Way programs and services, she gets to enjoy being a kid. For her, she is just happy to visit her friends and have a place to go where she is not alone.
When children and adults with intellectual disabilities have an opportunity to participate in programs, “its almost like there’s a seed that’s planted, and it gets nourished by the interactions with their peers, program facilitators, and community as a whole”.