“Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends belong and laughter never ends.” Annai Thantha Illam (ATI) which translates to “A home provided by the mother”, is a foundation that unites individuals of various physical and intellectual disabilities to create lifelong friends and unforgettable memories.
I started my journey at ATI as a volunteer. It was a single Instagram post that caught my attention and made me interested in dedicating a few hours each week to this initiative. Little did I know, this would quickly become a place that I truly love and look forward to coming to every single day. One of the things that amazed me the most about ATI was how many Canadian Tamils with disabilities were gathered together in one place, especially since it is such a taboo subject within our Tamil community. I was proud to see this foundation breaking barriers and providing the support and care that so many individuals were lacking.
Before working at ATI, I didn’t have much experience working closely with individuals with disabilities. As I spend more time at ATI, I have picked up on the unique characteristics and talents within each of the young adults. Many people are quick to think that individuals with disabilities are incapable of completing tasks on their own or exceling in certain activities. However, I have witnessed first-hand the artistic talent of many of our clients. At ATI, these individuals are able to showcase their talents and express their true selves through our programs and talent circles. This program is inclusive, encouraging and empowering to all individuals.
Working at ATI has also opened my eyes to the daily struggles of caregivers. Working with these young adults everyday has exposed me to not only the good, but also the hard times. Through all the experiences I have learned how patient and resilient you have to be. Caregivers are an important and essential backbone to these individuals, and ATI strives to provide them with the support and community they need.
As the months go on, you form unique bonds with each of the clients. Something I always say is that the bond you form with these individuals is different; it is pure and genuine. The most rewarding and humbling feeling is seeing the excitement on each of their faces when they arrive every morning. Even through all the adversities, they always come to ATI with positive attitudes and the biggest smiles. It is the warm welcome of these individuals that makes me excited to come back every day.
Amandah Antony is an undergraduate student in the Life Sciences program at McMaster University, working towards a job in the health care field. She has some experience working with individuals of different ages and abilities through her time at various hospitals across Ontario. Her passion is to provide support and the best quality of life to those with intellectual and physical disabilities.