Volunteering Experience with REACH School

by Amelie E-D on May 12, 2015 - 12:02am

Volunteering Experience with REACH School


On April 15th, I participated to an activity that took place in the gymnasium of the school with a school in St-Lambert parts of the Riverside School Board. This school is called REACH (Realistic Educational Alternatives for Children with Handicaps). This establishment is there to welcome children that have disabilities or handicaps. They want to help them to become more independent. It constitutes seven classes and counts 65 students. It offers different programs more about the way of living for children aged of 4 to 21 years old. This establishment is the only English public school that is offering those kinds of programs for children in the Montreal area. I found this organization interesting and I enjoyed my experience with them. The objective was to play and help the teenagers to develop skills when they were doing a physical activity.


We first welcomed them in the cafeteria with pizza and salad and we served them. After that, we went in the gymnasium to play some activities. They had to practice certain disciplines for their event of the year: The Defi Sportif that takes place in Montreal and welcomes disabled teenagers from everywhere around the world. This event allows the students to surpass themselves and show to the world that is not because they live with a disability that they cannot do what others do. I already did a post about the Defi Sportif that explains in details what it consists of: http://newsactivist.com/en/flacks-newsactivist-winter-2015-complementary-course/volunteer-opportunity/most-rewarding-volunteer. This activity made us realise that some teenagers really do not have an easy life and it is certainly very hard for the parents to find the energy to be always there for their kids. I also, personally, realise that some of them are really like us. Because I met young girls of my age, I really compared us and at the end, there is no difference. There is only more restrictions for what they do, but all is the same.

Two of the girls in the group were telling me their love story with their boyfriend that were also in the group. They were really cute. That made me realise that we all live from the same thing. I already knew it, but when you are into it, it is different, believe me. We are alive for love and our passions. Those girls never stopped telling me that they wanted to dance in the gymnasium with everybody. They literally wanted transform the gym in a disco. Even, when we were in the cafeteria and we were just talking about anything, and one of the girl told me: “I want to take a shot!” I was really surprised about this thought honestly. She thought about it because the water glasses that we had on the tables were almost as smaller as a shot glass, but seriously, I did not even noticed it. They are really smart, they just do not express the same way than we do, but except that, we all have a brain and the brain is there to control what we do whoever we are.

After the cafeteria activity, we went in the gymnasium to first play the tag with the teenagers. We had to keep them with us and be sure they follow us wherever we go. This is very tricky because you really have to act like you would do with one of your friend, even if they are not walking properly or if they do not talk. The objective was to make them interact with everybody in the gym at that point. It was a beautiful activity that everybody enjoyed. After, we started the more serious disciplines, and this is where it got harder with some of them. They were not fully doing this for the pleasure, they had an objective behind this, which is the Defi Sportif that promotes the physical activity for disabled teenagers, as I already mentioned upper in the post. Here is a link for a video that has been published by CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Montreal/ID/2665618109/   At 0:25 seconds and even later in the video, they interviewed a boy from REACH school that was participating to the volunteering activity at Champlain. This activity made me realise that practicing a sport casually is really important for our health. It is also something that sticks everybody together whatever the differences are because we are all doing this for the same reason: to have a healthy lifestyle. It is really amazing what sport leads to, honestly.


In the world, the sport is not enough promoted and it is something that should matter for everybody. There are many more publicities about this now, but people are not enough participating. At least, there is a progression here in Quebec. We have important models that try to make a change such as Pierre Lavoie who is an amazing man. He organizes so many activities to promote sport in schools and now, in families. He knows that the sport is really the issue of everything. According to me, he is doing an amazing job to try to motivate the students. For primary school, he organizes an activity that consists to earn energy cubes. Each cube worth 15 minutes. Every time a kid and his family are doing sport, they accumulate energy cubes. For example, if my little sister and I are doing bike for 30 minutes, she has four energy cubes. I did two and she did two also. I believe it is an amazing project because it is easy to understand and it promotes sport in a different way. Usually, we say that we should do at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, but for some people 30 minutes seem to be a lot. In this case, I think that 15 minutes will encourage more people to move. Here is the link that explains clearly what will happen in Quebec in the future thanks to those energy cubes: http://newsactivist.com/en/news-summary/flacks-newsactivist-winter-2015-complementary-course/together-we-can-make-difference .  For high schools, cegeps and universities, the Grand Defi Pierre Lavoie exists. This relay race starts in Quebec City and ends up in Montreal. The objective of this run is to promote sports in those establishments for the students, but also to raise funds for the orphan diseases. It is really incredible because it works and it is a motivation for the students to go to school because of the trainings and the chemistry that takes place in the running team. I have done this Defi twice in my life and I do not regret it at all. The pain that we feel during the Defi is nothing compared to what the children with rare disease can feel. After this amazing experience, you know that nothing can stop you in life.

In conclusion, thanks to those activities, but especially the REACH volunteering activity, that made me realised that we are all the same. We are all humans and we all breathe the same air to live. If we help others, we will all go further together and we should never forget to smile even if things are not going well. Life is more than just a word, it represents all what us, humans can do if we decide to stand up and fight together to accomplish what we want.



























I think that your post is absolutely inspiring because I think you are right: children with diseases and handicaps are just like us, but they just express themselves in a different way. You should continue to raise awareness about physical activities and especially for people in special needs in order to provide more people in the making and to promote this good idea around other students that may be interested in doing the same thing as you. What I admire from this post, is that you have combined your love for sports with your love for communication into one activity: this way is a more efficient way to reach more people because you reach the ones who are interested whether in sports or in communications, just like Robert Gupta has mentioned in his Ted talk where he combines his two loves for medicine and music and raises awareness with a good cause. As a suggestion, what can be done to improve the work that you have accomplished is that you should organize more activities like that for people in special needs, and even make these people reach some sort of possible goal so that they stay motivated in doing physical activities. If keep continuing to reach that goal, they will be even more prepared and proud of themselves when they are at events like the Défi Sportif. Always incorporate music and friendship inside these activities, and this will incite them to move.
Follow the link below to watch the Robert Gupta’s Ted Talk about his passion for medicine and music: https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_gupta_between_music_and_medecine-

I think you have risen many good points when it comes to the topic of physically/mentally individuals and physical activity. I think there is a lot of work to be done to have proper and consistent social support, and to try to alleviate and even remove the stigma against disabled individuals. They are the same as non-disabled individuals, they just have a different perspectives of the same situations and their perspectives are the still valid. I think that if physical activity is done in moderation, and done in an enjoyable environment like Defi Sportif, it really encourages everyone to partake in (and even organize) more activities! I think lack of knowledge about this cause is still needs to have a lot more awareness about it. I think a lot of people think that a mentally disabled individual's body works entirely different than from someone 'normal', but its that their bodies need a different type of care (as suggested in the following link http://www.down-syndrome.org/reviews/27/).

Congratulations for your implication with these children, teens and adults! Direct contact is often an effective way to break the boundaries separating people marginalized by their "difference" and other people. You came to talk to some people with special needs and you realized how their objectives and questions were the same as everybody else. This is something I am realizing more and more with my volunteer project, which you know about since you posted on it! My goddaughter can really be a friend, without distinction because of her disorder.
Seeing sport as a solution to exclusion is something I did not really cover with my volunteer project but that is a really great idea. It is true that sport can bring people together, as long as the sport is accessible and that judgments are put away. Other students in the class took part in this volunteer project, and as a way of perpetuating the activity at Champlain, a Facebook page was created and the event, I hope, will continue for a long time!
While spending time with my goddaughter for the Parrainage Champlain, I realized how time spent in group could be rewarding, even for people with social anxiety disorder, as it is the case for my goddaughter. The commitment you took part in was great, but of what I know, it mostly gathered volunteers who were already sensitive to the situation of children with special needs. The contacts that occurred during the day were, I am sure, really constructive, but I think something else is needed to destroy the prejudices that are conveyed in our society. I believe such activities should be organized between 'regular' classes and REACH classes. Volunteers could manage the activities (adapted to people’s capacities), and make sure everybody is respected. The kids should be grouped together in teams so they can cooperate no matter their capacities. I am sure teachers too would be glad to contribute to such a day!

I found your post very interesting. I wasn’t aware that the Defi Sportif organised something that would encourage teenagers with disabilities or handicaps to practice sports. I read your post because my little sister has severe autism. This kind of activities gives me hope that when she grows up, she will have the chance to experience as much things as “normal” teenagers. I’m also happy that you got the opportunity to share your experience and erase the stigma around people that have handicaps or diseases. You wrote an important and thorough piece on equality and the importance of treating everyone with the respect they deserve. Here is an article about the impact of stigmas on people that have disabilities: http://www.su.rmit.edu.au/assets/Downloads/Journal-Article-Living-Stigma.... I believe you could find this article interesting as it would show you how important your post can help resolve the issue surrounding prejudices. Indeed, by describing your volunteering experience, you have demonstrated that teens with handicaps are really the same as any other teenagers. In a way, you are stopping the perpetuation of stereotypes surrounding this subject. I really hope you had as much fun volunteering as I had reading your post.

I think your choice of volunteering is one of the most important. First of all, it is important to respect and treat people with disabilities with more attention and care because that’s what they need the most. Also, I also think that it is important to teach them how to become more independent. Finally, I think that using physical activities in order to teach them things that could be useful for them. Another strategy that could be used to help them become more independent and help them learn is by integrating them in the society and the world of work. For instance, at Champlain College, the people who are doing an amazing job cleaning the cafeteria every day are people with a mental handicap. By integrating them, it provides them work experience and makes them reasoning. Also, it makes them feel useful and important.

Hi, I really like the idea of giving opportunities to children with disabilities. Even better when these opportunities are offered by the school. This project, Défi Sportif, really does make a difference to those children lives, not only does it help shape their identity but helps them become more independant. Something that has become harder these days. That's why I want you to know about AQVA. AQVA, is a charitable and committed organisation dedicated to “offering opportunities and resources to those who have mobility impairments and want to learn how to sail.” This in the hopes that sailors become more independent in the face of adversity. Right now they are working on a revision of their governance, policies and procedures in the hopes of making 2018’s “Coupe du Québec regatta” even bigger and better. If you want to help this organisation, you can become a sailing companion, help in the rigging and derigging of boats or just help the overall facilities stay in a good condition. Good luck in your future endeavors.

Contact information:
AQVA - Head office
35 - 2025 Quesnel, Montreal, Quebec, H3J 2K9
Tel: 514-846-2171
Email: info@aqva.org