Meet Our COR Family: Joana Valamootoo
Hi! I am Joana! I am the Employment Partnership Consultant for the 4to40 initiative which is to connect people experiencing disability with forward-thinking employers who embrace a flexible 4 to 40-hour work week. In this role, I am responsible for supporting both the employee (person experiencing a disability) and employer as people enter the workforce, many for the first time! I also support the hiring and training of job coaches who provide hands-on support and mentorship; my primary focus is to build strong, trusting relationships with current employer partners!
I also recently started a new role as Cultural Advisor. In this role, I deliver Cultural Awareness training to COR’s support teams, while engaging with our entire COR family to help bring awareness to and celebrate the many events, activities, and cultural traditions of the diverse people who make up the COR family! I engage our Leadership Team in cultural topics and discussions to strengthen our diversity and nurture a culture of belonging among our whole COR family.
Prior to COR, I was working as the Respite Coordinator and Admin at Inclusion Regina; when Inclusion Regina and COR merged together in 2019, I joined COR as the Employment Partnership Consultant. In 2020, I proudly led the development of a new program to support families in need: Short Breaks. It’s been 4 years since I have been at COR. Time flies when you are doing what you love. When I was working at Inclusion Regina, I remember meeting with Michael Lavis, COR CEO, and Ben Morris, Director of the COR Studio. They both made an impact on me and I went home and started researching COR. I wanted to learn more about Gentle Teaching and fell in love with the COR philosophy of gentleness. Even before joining COR, I started to use Gentle Teaching with my kids. It looks like I was destined to join COR!
I have had many favourite projects during my time at COR so far! I always learn something new with every project and try to make it my own! I always put pieces of what I know, my values, and my education into each project. I have a Bachelor of Science with honours in Sociology; I am also working to complete another degree in Justice Studies at the University of Regina. I have always tried to incorporate both my learning and experience into my work. I love the 4to40 Initiative because I have seen how employment can transform the lives of the individuals we serve. Particularly, one project I love is the Job Club training that I co-facilitated with Peco Nagai, Educational Facilitator at Campus for All at the University of Regina.
I also love the Short Breaks Program, which is a new program in partnership with the City of Regina and Hope’s Home. It has a special place in my heart because we started this program in October 2020 when we were going through the Covid Pandemic. It was a scary time for so many people, but mostly for the individuals we serve and individuals with Intellectual disabilities living in the community with families, as at that time, all programs/activities were on hold or moved online. Short Breaks was one of the only programs where people were still able to come and socialize. It helped people navigate the uncertainties related to Covid and having a place to come to do art, participate in activities, and mostly socialize – it had a positive effect on everyone. I value connection, socializing, and being part of the community; the individuals we serve are equally the same, they strive for social interaction.
Lastly, I love the Cultural Awareness training which I had the opportunity to develop and have started to deliver to COR employees. I am able to hear first-hand lived experiences and understand how we can better support employees that work at COR. It has also been a lot of learning for me. I am grateful to be able to facilitate this training and get to know our COR family on a deeper level.
Some advice I have for people who want to join COR is to have an open mind and an open heart to receive, share and grow as an individual, but also as a team player in the community. What I have learned working at COR and through the many learning opportunities such as Gentle Teaching 1 and 2, SafeTALK, Person-Centered Thinking, and Coaching; I am able to apply it in my personal life and the lens through which I look at people and situations have changed. We all have a cultural and diversity lens and through the years of being at COR, I have been able to develop both cultural competency and cultural humility. They are both important, even essential in the field we work.
Fun Facts about me!
I love reading biographies of individuals that have influenced the world; Becoming by Michelle Obama is one of my favorites! Being a person of color, it’s inspiring.
One of my favorite quotes is:
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi.
This has stuck with me because as one individual we can all influence change and we can do so in gentle ways and it starts with us. As a mother, I want to be a role model to my kids and as a woman of color and a first-time immigrant in Canada, I want to influence and inspire people around me in small ways. After all, this is all we need, right? Making and influencing small changes that can have a big impact on society, at least on our own family and kids.
I love spending time in nature with my kids and my husband, going on long walks and going hiking are my favorite activities. I also love watching a good movie based on real life. I just discovered Hot Yoga and I love it too.
First I want to congratulate you Joanna. I am so proud of being your ex teacher. Your parents must be very proud of you. I wish you more and more success in your career. I love your write up.Sending loads of love to you and yr kids. ❤
Aw thank you so much Madam Pudaruth, you are one of my favourite teacher and i hope you know that 🙂
Thank you for always supporting me and my sister, you were more than a teacher to me, sending you love too 🙂