From the big smile on Yasmin’s face, it’s hard to imagine she used to be timid – but before joining EmployAbility’s Community Access program, Yasmin was a bit of a wallflower. Community Access focuses on helping adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) grow and make meaningful connections through daily volunteering and enrichment activities.
“Yasmin loves volunteering because she knows that she is helping others, and that’s important to her,” said Yasmin’s Community Access Instructor, Monique.
One of Yasmin’s favorite volunteer activities is going to Emmaus House, an interfaith ministry that has been feeding the homeless for almost 40 years in Savannah. There, Yasmin and her CAG teammates perform a variety of tasks – everything from wiping down tables and chairs to repackaging and organizing bulk-packaged foods into single-serve bags to distribute to those experiencing homelessness.
Yasmin knows the impact she makes through volunteering. “I like to help people… it makes me very happy!”
Her family is grateful for the CAG program and how it has grown her confidence and allowed her to explore new opportunities for connecting with the community. Her parents told us, “Yasmin was quiet and liked to stay home until she joined EmployAbility’s CAG. Now she is more talkative, lends a helping hand, and is more physically active riding her bicycle, playing basketball, and walking her dog.”
EmployAbility’s connection with Emmaus House is one that is deeply meaningful to both organizations. It’s one group of misunderstood, overlooked people, helping another group that is often misunderstood and overlooked. “They’re such hard workers and they’re so funny and they have such beautiful personalities individually. It’s just a joy to have them here,” says Emmaus House Executive Director, Ariana Berksteiner.
In addition to volunteering at Emmaus House, CAG program participants deliver Meals on Wheels each weekday and help out at other organizations such as Union Mission, Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, Riverview Nursing Home, and several local churches. After their daily volunteering activity, they have lunch on campus, then go back out into the community for enrichment activities such as water aerobics, yoga, visiting local museums, exploring the beach, learning about local wildlife, and touring historic downtown Savannah.
Often, people with IDD are viewed as “takers” or “disengaged,” when in reality, the opposite is true: they are givers, they are helpers, and they want to – and do – make an impact!
With your support, EmployAbility can further expand its Community Access Groups, allowing those on the CAG waiting list to make their way into the community each day to volunteer and see that their abilities are valued and that they are wanted and welcome in the community!