WIAIH in desperate need of space

Sarah Leavitt
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Teens with special needs with nowhere to go

WIAIH is looking for a space for its after-school program for teenagers.

Anna Cegielka is at the end of her rope. Her son Eric - a teenager with special needs - usually has a place to go after school where he is supervised. For Anna and her husband, the after school supervision usually provided by the West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped (WIAIH) is needed as they both work. This year, WIAIH may not be able to provide the same service as they cannot find a space to house the teenagers who take part in the program.

"WIAIH tries to provide for gaps in the services given by the government or schools," said the organization's Executive Director Natalie Chapman. "The afternoon service for kids over 12 has been an issue for years. There was a program that was started about 25 years ago by a couple of people who needed the service. They ran it for 20 years and we took it over after that."

However, last year, WIAIH had to give up the space they had secured at John F. Kennedy School and have been left scrambling ever since. With school just around the corner, they are appealing to the West Island community to help them out.

Chapman says WIAIH has applied for funding from the Ministry of the Family and if received, the organization could pay a modest rent.

"If we could get ministry funding, maybe we could manage and pay a little bit of rent," said Chapman. "However, (the kids in the program) are not small; they are teenagers. They need room to let loose because they've been in school all day. We just haven't been able to find it."

WIAIH is hoping something is found or else the program will have to be cancelled; a decision that parents like Anna don't want to think about.

The ideal space for WIAIH's program

WIAIH is looking for enough wheelchair-accessible space on the West Island to comfortably hold up to 20 teens and young adults - ideally a half-gym, a multi-purpose room and easily accessible washrooms. The space needs to be available school days, Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m with no risk of cancellation - parents cannot easily make alternate arrangements on short notice.

Organizations: West Island Association, John F. Kennedy School, Ministry of the Family

Geographic location: West Island

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