Support program broadens clients’ horizons

Ian Pallister found Christian Horizons who helped him find his way. (PALLISTER_SIMMS_E)

After three hours the Air Transat flight landed in Cancun, Mexico. As he listened to the welcome announcements, Ian Pallister couldn’t contain his excitement. He was finally there.

“Oh, I enjoyed it there so much. It was excellent,” Pallister said. “We stayed at the Gran Bahia Principe on the Mayan Riviera.”

Ian Pallister, 56, does not remember his first trip overseas. He was a child when he travelled to England with his mother. But he remembers everything about the second trip in May of 2006. He wasn’t very good at managing his finances and saving towards a vacation was quite the achievement for him.

Pallister spent most of his early adult life living with and dependent on his mother. He did not interact much with his community.

“Being in a different country was different,” Pallister said. “The bus-boys who helped with bags, so many.”

Pallister started his education in the general school population, but was moved several times.

“I had a slight retardation problem,” Pallister said. “My mother tried me in regular school but teachers didn’t have time for me.”

He was schooled at Ontario Hospital School (renamed Rideau Regional Centre) and the Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia. Both of which were in Orillia.

“In my growing years, I had to go away,” Pallister said. “I didn’t like it.”

In 1974, when Pallister was 19 years old, attitudes shifted from institutionalization to living in communities. Persons with developmental disabilities began to advocate for their rights to manage their own lives. He moved into Samuel Stedman Community Residence in Branford, Ontario. He did not stay long, he had to return to Toronto.

“I was at a residence for about one year,” Pallister said. “Then I had to come home …my mother wasn’t well.”

He lived with his mother for 40 years in the Beach (in Toronto) and maintained his limited interaction with the community.

His mother who had been his protection and companion died in 2002. He was 49 years old.

“I found it very difficult,” Pallister said. “It was like being thrown into heat. I found it very difficult to be alone.”

He reached out to those persons who had assisted his mother during her illness, but without regular assistance he was unable to sustain his lifestyle. Soon things took a turn for the worse and he had to leave the only home he knew.

“I had to get out ’cause I was living in a two-bedroom apartment at Coxwell and Queen,” Pallister said.

Ian Pallister found the help provided at Christian Horizons gave him the independence he needed. (DILEEN_HORIZONS_E)

Pallister explained that one day he decided to call someone, anyone and scanned the phonebook. He reached out to the Christian Horizons (CH) organization and they responded in kind.

Christian Horizons assists persons with developmental disabilities and responded quickly to assist Pallister.

It’s been nine years and Pallister, residing in a Supported Independent Living environment, is a fully functioning member of the community.

“My life has completely changed,” Pallister said. “I have a good worker, Selvie. She’s been a big help to me.”

Selvie Vyra, is Pallister’s residential counsellor and spoke about his improvements since they met in 2003.

“I was hired after he came into the program,” Vyra said. “The first year was so hard for him. He was totally dependent on his mom.”

Vyra explains that Pallister had to learn to take care of himself, to manage his own health and set financial goals. He had lots of plans but did not know how to achieve them.

“He wasn’t in great shape,” Vyra said. “I was working on his health. Within a year, in 2004 he lost 40 pounds.”

“I make my own meals. I like porridge in the morning …I like broccoli,” Pallister said. “Selvie taught me how to eat.”

That is what we trained him (to do),” Vyra said. “Open up a savings (account) and not touch it. That is strictly for vacations.”

In addition to some financial support from the government, Pallister has a part-time job at a doctor’s office at St. Clair and Yonge.

“I’ve been working for seven or eight years,” Pallister said. “I do filing.”

On Saturday, May 13, 2006, after saving faithfully for  two years Pallister went to Latin America, with enough money for a one-week vacation.

“I went to Mexico. There was me, Selvie and Louise Barker,” Pallister said.

Showing great improvement in his health, finances and independence, Pallister, is a transformed person. He is involved in his community and plans to write about his life.

“Sky is the limit,” Vyra said. “He’s climbing the stairs …He’s living his life.”