Jessica Cashmore always knew that her purpose in life was to help others. As a current Crisis Response Worker at the Canadian Mental Health Association, it would seem she’s found her calling — thanks to a little help from the Ontario Disability Support Program’s (ODSP) Employment Supports.
Jessica, who is blind and also has depression, turned to local ODSP employment supports service provider Northern College to receive help in finding a job after graduating from college.
“I knew right away that she was going to be successful,” says Kristina Connors, job developer at Northern College.
Jessica, who has a background in social services, came to Kristina already knowing that she wanted to work at the Canadian Mental Health Association. Having experienced mental illness herself, Jessica felt that she was in a unique position to help others in similar situations overcome their challenges. So Kristina worked with Jessica to improve her resume and develop a cover letter. Jessica was also anxious about the interview process, so Kristina set up several mock interviews to help her practice and become familiar with interviewing.
“I remember when Kristina asked me ‘What are your strengths?’,” says Jessica, “at first I really didn’t know. But once she was able to help me see some of my strengths, I was able to own them, I was able to own those strengths.”
Jessica says the confidence she gained from working with Kristina helped her to eventually land the Crisis Response Worker position. Once she started working, Kristina checked in with both Jessica and her manager, Leslie, regularly to make sure things were going smoothly. At one point, Jessica required assistive software for her computer in order to do her job, so Kristina was able to provide the software at no cost through the Employment Supports program.
“With her visual impairment,” explains Leslie, “we had to figure out how to make the technology work for her — Kristina was very helpful with that.”
Leslie has been impressed with both the support that Kristina has provided and Jessica’s performance in her new role.
“Jessica is a very strong clinician,” says Leslie. “She has good insight and she’s very dedicated to the work that we do.”
It shows — in the way Jessica beams with pride whenever she speaks about her job.
“I love working with people,” Jessica says. “It gives me a sense of purpose — knowing that I’m able to help somebody and get them to a safe spot in their life.”
While Jessica has faced obstacles along the way, she’s maintained a positive outlook, thanks in part to the newfound confidence that working with Kristina helped instil in her. She highly recommends ODSP Employment Supports to anyone with a disability who is interested in working, and offers this piece of advice:
“Focus on what you can do and what you have to offer. Because everybody has talent, everybody does.”