Keychains open door to new horizons for Miriam Home clients

Teachers and students set off to sell keychains at Galileo school on February 5. From left: Matea Dixon, teacher; Isabelle Albert, Rehabilitation assistant; Philippe Caron, Angelia Escobia, Isabelle Cho and Mark Anthony Reyes, clients of Miriam Home who made the keychains; and Dominique Hamel, Special Care Counselor.
Teachers and students set off to sell keychains at Galileo school on February 5. From left: Matea Dixon, teacher; Isabelle Albert, Rehabilitation assistant; Philippe Caron, Angelia Escobia, Isabelle Cho and Mark Anthony Reyes, clients of Miriam Home who made the keychains; and Dominique Hamel, Special Care Counselor.

It began with a simple idea: Making keychains by hand. It has ended up unlocking a world of possibilities for young adults at Miriam Home and Services.

Picture a series of keychains carrying inspirational words like “Faith,” “Love” and “Miracle.” Now picture a group of people with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders assembling and selling them to raise funds for the needy. That’s what the Key Change project is all about.

The young adults attend the Galileo Adult Education Centre in Montreal, thanks to a new partnership between the school and Miriam Home, a member facility of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal.

Keychains were assembled one by one, with a charm, tassel and the Galileo logo.
Keychains were assembled one by one, with a charm, tassel and the Galileo logo.

The keychain initiative got off the ground when Angelia Escobia, a Miriam Home client, heard about another group at the school that was cooking food to support some fellow students in need.

“I want to help students in need, too,” Ms. Escobia said one day in January.

The suggestion set the wheels in motion, and the keychain project was launched. Dominique Hamel, a Special Care Counselor at Miriam Home, ordered pieces for the keychains online.

Along with Isabelle Albert, a Rehabilitation Assistant at Miriam Home, and Matea Dixon, a teacher at Galileo, the team worked together with the students to assemble the keychains one by one. On February 2, the students visited other classrooms at the school, offering the keychains for sale for $3. The entire batch of 100 quickly sold out. More are being produced.

“This project turned into something we can all be proud of,” Ms. Hamel says. “When we give our clients the tools, the time and the attention, amazing things happen. They have the opportunity to learn and to grow, and to be who they are.”

Equally important, it has allowed young adults with special needs to contribute to the wider community. The money raised through the keychain sales will go toward making care packages for those in need both at Galileo, and in the community at large in Montreal.

A completed keychain.
A completed keychain.

The classes at Galileo are part of Miriam Home’s Community Integration Program for adults aged 21 years and over, which is aimed at developing social awareness and pre-vocational skills.

“This project has allowed them to give back and be active members of the community,” says Chantal Forget, Program Manager for the Community Integration Program at Miriam Home. “They’re not just on the receiving end of services, they’re also contributing to society.”

The project also highlights the benefits of Miriam’s new association with Galileo, which began last year despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The adult education centre in Montreal North, part of the English Montreal School Board, offers specialized supervision, innovative programs such as zootherapy and puppet workshops, and access to a kitchen, multi-sensory room and more.

Martina Schiavone, principal of Galileo, praised the new alliance with Miriam Home and the keychain project that grew out of it. Numerous keychains were purchased by Galileo students and staff. “What a beautiful initiative between both organizations. And we all feel pride carrying these keychains with us,” Ms. Schiavone says. Partnership, support, and a good idea: For a successful project, it’s all key.

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