If you have recently stepped foot inside our East Vancouver Learning Centre, you’ve probably met Alice, our friendly Support Coordinator.

Alice comes to us from England but completed her Linguistics degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She fell in love with Vancouver while studying abroad at the University of British Columbia. This is also where she met Melissa “Mel” Henderson, who is our Learning Support Manager. Mel encouraged Alice to apply for a position at the Learning Disabilities Society (LDS).

Alice’s bubbly personality, coupled with that classic British wit, has made her a terrific addition and a hit with the kids. “I think they see a kindred spirit in me,” Alice says, “because I don’t take things very seriously and I enjoy having interactions with the kids.”

At LDS, Alice is the Jill of all trades. At different times, she acts as the office space and Learning Centre coordinator, executive assistant, or program administrator. When asked if she is the glue that holds this organization together, she scoffs.

“No. I would absolutely not say that,” she jokingly insists. “I would say I’m like… no I don’t have a metaphor for what I am. I’ll work on it though.”

Another of Alice’s many tasks is maintaining safety and operations as we continue to navigate COVID-19. Recently, Alice and Mel were faced with the problem of physically distancing students and their family members for PEERS, our teen social skills program. “We were just moving furniture around this room trying to figure out how we can space all these chairs out and it’s just so weird cause that’s day-to-day life now.”

Alice has also been key in screening students for COVID-19 before they enter the Centre. “A lot of our families have probably met me because I jump out of the front door ask them fun questions about the pandemic. It’s weird that part of my job is to ask if their kid has diarrhea.”

This highlights Alice’s unique relationship with LDS families. “I might be the first voice that they hear from LDS in our onboarding [process]. They get a phone screening with me and I set them up to come into the Centre. I hear family stories and sometimes commiserate with them. …It’s supposed to be a ten-minute phone screening conversation, but it’s often a half an hour of us just chatting, which is great.”

There are still moments of connection to be had even in these difficult times, and Alice’s relationship with our students is truly special. When asked what she finds fulfilling about working with LDS, Alice says, “interacting with the kids. In the lead up to Christmas, I hadn’t been around kids who believed in Santa for a long time. One of them walked up to me and said, ‘Merry Christmas, Alice!’ I said, ‘Oh! Thank you.’ And then he proceeded to ask me if Santa would still come and if Santa would have to wear a mask. I said, ‘yeah, Santa watches Dr. Bonnie’s announcements, so I think he knows what to do.’”

—Rie & Sierra

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Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people.

Sierra Gemma (she/her) is LDS’ Communications and Fundraising Manager, working remotely from Lək̓ʷəŋən land on Vancouver Island. Sierra has a BA in History and Sociology and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She enjoys community building, reading, and writing nonfiction, for which she has received a National Newspaper Award and a National Magazine Award. 

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