When Kevin’s parents were asked if Kevin could join the Goodness Gift social enterprise, the answer was a quick and enthusiastic yes! They knew that opportunities like this don’t come along very often for their 25-year-old son who is on the Autism Spectrum.
Kevin has been receiving services at the SAAAC Autism Centre for over 10 years, and he’s been a part of many meaningful and impact programs at the Centre and within his community. However, this was the first time he got the call for paid employment. A lack of paid employment is a monumental hurdle for those on the autism spectrum, and one that Kevin’s family is all too familiar with. A staggering 86% of adults on the spectrum are unemployed in Canada.
Geetha Moorthy, the Founder and Executive Director at the SAAAC Autism Centre, has recently launched a new social enterprise called the Goodness Gift to help chip away at that disparity. “It’s really unfortunate that so many of our adult members have never had any opportunities to showcase their talents and work ethic. The stigmas and hesitancy to hire our members is a major social issue that we need to address,” she says.
This is a sentiment that has been highly exasperated by a pandemic that has left millions unsure about their future employment prospects. A fact that has created a greater sense of urgency for Geetha and the staff at SAAAC.
“As hard as things have been in the past for our members, we recognize that the next few years will be even tougher. Many of our parents and family members are worried about their own livelihoods and finances, on top of supporting and caring for their children. That’s why we need to do something now to support these families in a meaningful way”.
Fast tracking the launch of Goodness Gift to coincide with the Holiday giving season was a top priority for the team at SAAAC. “It was vital for us to have this program up and running as soon as possible, but we also recognized that we had to build a solid and sustainable program that could continue to grow over time” says Kingston Yogendran, Director of Development at SAAAC. “We had to call on our entire team of therapists and job coaches to bring this vision to life; their responses and tenacity have been inspiring”
Two weeks after the Nov 1st launch, Kevin and three of his co-workers received their first paycheck, a moment Kevin celebrated by throwing his arms in the air with excitement. The volunteers and staff applauded the milestone with pride and joy in their eyes. “We can easily take for granted how important that moment is when you get paid for your work; it’s unlike any feeling- to be recognized for your efforts,” Geetha reflected, “I am confident that these moments will have a lasting impact for them and their families”.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, Geetha and her team are reaching out to their contacts and supporters to share this program and the impact it’s having. “We’ve made it easier than ever to support these hardworking and talented individuals,” she said. When asked how others can join the cause, she replied “Just go to Goodnessgift.com and order some of your holiday gifts as you normally would. It’s a small gesture, but it can make a world of difference for our members.”
A single $100 order will directly result in 7 hrs of paid employment for members. A fitting fact for a social enterprise that proudly displays their tagline on their website home page: A gift for you. A gift for them.