#sextrafficking | Tablet donation opens new world for Ongwanada residents during pandemic | #tinder | #pof | #match

John Graczol, a resident in one of Ongwanada’s community residences, and Ongwanada staff member Jennifer Regan participate in a virtual planning meeting with Person-Centred Planner Maureen Hughson thanks to the donation of 20 tablet devices by Lionhearts Inc. Photo by Maureen Hughson.

Many of those are
in Kingston and the area are familiar with Lionhearts Inc. and the work they do
supporting some of the most vulnerable populations in our community.

The Lionhearts
meal program
, which began at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, serves up
hundreds of meals daily to residents in Kingston, and recently expanded their
meal programs to include an Amherstview location, as well. Prior to the
pandemic, the organization was working behind the scenes, reclaiming unused
food from restaurants and stores and redistributing it to those facing food

And, of course,
Lionhearts is also the organization behind The
, a live music venue that does not serve alcohol and puts on shows
that are often offered on a pay-what-you-can basis, and the organization also
leads F.A.S.T.: Fight Against Sex Trafficking.

But while those
more public gestures and operations the Lionhearts produce take the spotlight,
the group continues to do incredible work for the community, and, in
particular, those most in need within it.

Quietly last week,
Lionhearts Inc. donated 20 tablet devices to Ongwanada, a local organization
that supports those with developmental disabilities. An active part of the
Kingston community since 1948, Ongwanada delivers programs and services at its
three main sites in Kingston, and operates over 20 community residences for
those with developmental disabilities. Those community residences are located
in neighbourhoods across Kingston, Napanee, Gananoque, and the surrounding
areas, and generally house three to six people with 24-hour staff.

For those with
Ongwanada, the donation of the tablets was nothing short of extraordinary, and
an act that served as a “real game changer” for those living in the community residences,
as well as those who support them.

“The Lionhearts,
by virtue of their community interests, focus on folks who are who are less privileged
than many others in society,” said Alastair Lamb, CEO of Ongwanada. “And they understood
that the folks that we support were in isolation, and they hit upon the idea
that they could assist in terms of providing these folks with the tools that
they could participate in some of the programming and some of the supports that
they would otherwise be missing out on by virtue of physical distancing.”

The staff at
Ongwanada began trialing the use of the tablets on Friday, May 8, 2020, and are
quickly discovering their many applications. Primarily, the tablets allow the
Ongwanada residents the ability to connect with staff members who would
otherwise normally meet with them face-to-face. But beyond that, the staff at
Ongwanada are currently rolling out a number of different programs and
applications for the tablets, to allow residents to participate in occupational
therapy sessions virtually, to access spiritual guidance and church services,
to allow residents to connect with family and friends, and to join in a virtual
Music Café to enjoy live music remotely.

When the staff at
Ongwanada began trialing the tablets last week, it was immediately apparent
that the tablets were a blessing in more ways than one. Jennifer Regan, a staff
member at one of Ongwanada’s community residence, and Person-Centred Planner
Maureen Hughson participated in that first trial with a client for
person-centred planning meeting. These are meetings which are carried out
annually, and can involve a number of participants, including residential
support workers, occupational therapists, and/or family members.

“So a
person-centred plan is a meeting that we do annually with individuals that we
support to establish goals for the upcoming year, and we have an individual
who, as it actually turned out… it was amazing,” Hughson said over the phone,
the delight in her voice obvious.

Hughson explained
that this particular individual doesn’t like the big meeting format, and can experience
severe anxiety when changing environments. Although easily overwhelmed with
in-person meetings, after working with Hughson and Regan prior to the meeting
to understand how it would work, the client seemed a lot more comfortable with
the process in a virtual setting.

“So having the
ability to be in a setting that they’re familiar with, like the house, I think
that alone was a huge help,” Regan said.

“It was really
nice to be able to sit and, over the tablet, see a couple of people that needed
to be part of this, and the individual was much more able to speak and be an
active participant in the meeting, whereas before, a lot of the times, he
wouldn’t be,” she continued, noting that, if the client became agitated, he was
able to stand up and walk around during the tablet meeting, where he would have
to be excused from the board room in an in-person situation.

“It was a lot of
pressure off him where he could feel more comfortable,” she said. “There are a
lot of different things that went very well with this, and I could see it being
a real game-changer for the future.”

And, while the
initial concept behind the tablet was to help break down some of the isolation
caused by the pandemic, in the end, the staff at Ongwanada said they’re finding
other applications and benefits from employing the virtual connections.

“It was just
really great to see him come out of his shell and verbally speak for himself,
and be comfortable to advocate more for himself when he felt comfortable,”
Regan said.

“As Jen mentioned,
it is a bit of a game changer in terms of how we would normally conduct these
person-centred plans. So it’s definitely one of the benefits, if you can call
it that, of this experience,” Lamb agreed.

Lisa Holmes,
Manager of Eastern Region Community Network of Specialized Care for Ongwanada,
explained that their staff is looking at multiple different ways to use the
tablets and technology to create experience for those they support – people who
are now going into their tenth week of stay-at-home isolation.

“Most of the time,
these individuals are used to being out in the community, going to day
activities, so we’re really trying to find ways to continue engaging and combat
the boredom,” she said.

Through this week,
the Ongwanada staff have begun to roll out a virtual wellness program with
physical activity exercises by video designed by their occupational therapy
team. They launched virtual meet-ups so residents could connect with their
families, as well as the friends they’ve met through community programs and a
peer support group. On Wednesday, Ongwanada’s Spiritual Care program, which is
a non-denominational church, was launched virtually, allowing residents to take
place in a mass and see the chaplain’s face – a bit of a return to their regular
routines, Hughson said. On Friday, the resident’s will be engaging with one of
Ongwanada’s physical therapists for Fitness Friday, and on Monday and Friday
afternoons, the Ongwanada Café will feature live music performances via the

All staff members
at Ongwanada expressed sincere thanks to the Lionhearts for the generous
donation that is changing lives, both in terms of life during the pandemic, and

“Obviously, the
acquisition of the gift of these tablets is going to make a big difference in
terms of supporting some of Kingston’s most vulnerable folks. Lionhearts has
got a history of doing that, not only through this initiative, this project,
but also through their involvement in various food programs within the City,”
Lamb said.

Hughson echoed
those sentiments wholeheartedly.

“The opportunity
that is presented to the individuals that we support through these virtual
activities, I’m so excited to see how things will be going forward, and I think
it’s going to open up many, many new facets for people to connect with families,
as well as each other,” she said. “We don’t know where this can go, but the
opportunities are endless, really.”

For more
information on Ongwanada and the work they do throughout Kingston and the area,
click here.

For more
information on Lionhearts Inc., or to offer financial support, click here.

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