VIDEO: Oak Bay group of adults with developmental disabilities promotes community inclusivity

Victoria Community Connections moved to Oak Bay late last year

Residents may have spotted some new faces using the Oak Bay High track since the start of 2021.

A budding program that moved into Oak Bay late last year sprouted from a need identified by 11 area families. Each had an adult with developmental disabilities in need of a better model of care. They formed two individual groups that became one under the umbrella of Victoria Community Connections, said program director Katrina Villadsen.

The inclusive, family-governed model with a volunteer board run by the families, started in 2018.

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Now up to 12 adults meet for weekday programming, customized to needs, in the community room at Oak Bay United Church. Programs run the gamut from arts to athletics.

One key goal is to foster inclusion, a challenge since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to the closure and limited access to many businesses and public spaces, almost all members of the group were either employed or engaged in volunteer opportunities. Those dried up as things shut down.

While in-person church services were suspended, the group did get to interact (safely) with the occasional community member.

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“We really strive to foster community inclusion,” Villadsen said. “We support individuals to get out into the community and learn what’s out there. But we also foster the idea of the community learning about people in their setting, with disabilities.”

They use the track beside Oak Bay High to get in a workout, have been invited to Friends of Uplands Park invasive species pulling parties, and hope to get more out and about as pandemic restrictions ease – all targeted at getting involved in the community and inspiring inclusivity.

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