REES Helped Give Winnipegger a Voice – and a Job!

Original article posted by the Winnipeg Free Press

The Reaching E-Quality Employment Services (REES) didn’t just help Michael-Ane Gordon find a job — they helped her find her voice.

After having a stroke in 2013, Gordon was left with mobility issues, having to use a walker and then a cane, she said. A hole left in her vocal cords also caused difficulties speaking.

“It’s been a long journey, these last few years,” Gordon said. When the pandemic hit in 2020, Gordon said she knew it was time to make a change.

“I was sitting in my one-bedroom apartment during lockdown and I felt like I better do something with myself. So I decided to go back to school and get a job,” Gordon said. “All the people who were dying in the world from COVID, it was just so overwhelming. I was just so grateful to be alive, so I wanted to make a difference in my life. I wanted to feel the fulfillment.”

After going back to get her high school diploma, Gordon started looking for employment, but found it was a challenge.

“When you haven’t worked for a long time and you now have a disability with your speech and mobility — I know it’s not supposed to be an issue — but it is an issue finding a job for people with disabilities,” Gordon said. “We get looked over.”

That’s when Gordon learned about the REES program.

REES helps people with physical disabilities and/or health conditions connect with quality employment. The program offers a wide range of employment counselling and consultation services, connecting Winnipeg jobseekers with employers.

Gordon jumped into six months of workshops, learning different interview skills and how to go through the process of seeking employment.

Gordon said she gained a lot of skills for going through interviews and into employment, but more importantly, she gained back her confidence.

“I was always bothered by my voice, so that’s why it was very hard for me to come out of my shell. I always felt like I sounded like a monster,” Gordon said. “The team at REES made me feel very welcome, and helped me overcome my insecurities … Every time I went there it felt like a family, it was a great environment.”

After completing the workshops, Gordon had an interview and got a job as a cashier at Sobeys.

“REES helped me prepare and to get to that point, but when I got the job, I said to myself, ‘Michael-Ane, you did that all on your own,’ and it wasamazing feeling,” Gordon said. “They helped me learn not to worry about my disability. I am not my disability, I am me, and that is what gave me a very strong belief in myself that I could do it.”

REES also helped Gordon get items she needed for her uniform to start her job, like shoes and some black pants.

“I’m just so grateful because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it, and you can’t start the job without the proper (attire),” Gordon said.

Gordon says she’d recommend REES to anyone who needs a stepping stone to employment. “If someone hasn’t worked for a while, or whatever the circumstances, REES is an amazing program to help you find your way,” Gordon said. “You have to be willing to do your part, it’s a joint effort … but together you can be successful.”