Surprised and honoured

Surprised and honoured

Posted by on Apr 12, 2019 in Whats-new |

Ehrlo Counselling’s Shelley Tamaki has spent six years providing outreach services to the community of Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation, located approximately two hours southeast of Regina.

“Outreach counselling is important because there are situations where people simply are unable to come into our offices,” she explained. “There are so many obstacles that can prevent someone from getting the help they need – communication issues such as having no phones or Internet, having no transportation, time constraints, or issues with day-to-day coping that simply make it impossible for someone to physically come to the office.”

Knowing this, Shelley has made it part of her career to bring counselling services to areas such as Pheasant Rump.

“It’s important for me to understand what rural Indigenous families go through when they come to the city,” she added. “I strive to understand Indigenous culture and to provide services that are specific to what they need.”

Earlier this month, her contract came to an end. She was surprised and honoured by the reaction received to the news she wouldn’t be renewing.

“I told them in the morning I wouldn’t be renewing my contract, and by the afternoon they had flowers, food, and many gifts – a handmade shawl, a smudge bowl, sage, tobacco, an Indigenous mug, a blanket, and some hand and foot cream. One woman gave me her smudge bowl wrap that was handmade by her sister,” Shelley recalled. “I’ve never seen so many people at the band office – I felt so undeserving and very honoured.”

As an advocate for First Nations decolonization and truth, Shelley’s time at Pheasant Rump was very meaningful to her.

“I believe we could all benefit from attending at least two Indigenous cultural ceremonies a year to have more cultural awareness and humility in service to our Indigenous clients,” she continued, “providing these services is a way of practicing personal reconciliation,” she concluded.

Clinical director, Natashia Schoenroth, noted what an amazing tribute to the beautiful work that Shelley has done with Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation.

“It’s a true testament to the CARE principles with which Ranch Ehrlo Society operates from.  Shelley has always sought to be flexible and creative in providing treatment to the clients and families with whom she works.  This is just another testament of the great work that Shelley does.”

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CARE in self-expression

CARE in self-expression

Posted by on Apr 8, 2019 in Whats-new |

What happens when you don’t feel safe to express who you truly are?

Many of us are fortunate and will never know. But Casey*, one of Ranch Ehrlo’s longstanding clients in our Programs for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, has recently helped us to understand just a little bit of what goes on when you finally feel safe enough to be who you are.

Having an ecologically orientated space that suits the needs of our clients and helps them to develop and grow is one of the six guiding principles followed by the agency. This model called CARE, Children And Residential Experiences: Creating Conditions for Change, was developed by Cornell University to improve services for people in care.

Casey has lived at Ranch Ehrlo for over 20 years. For almost that entire time, she was known by staff, housemates, and coworkers as he. There were small signs that she was experiencing some issues with her gender identity but paired with her cognitive difficulties (in both understanding and expressing what was going on with her), they were easy to dismiss.

“It’s been a bit of a journey to get to this point,” said clinical consultant Holli Holmes, who has worked with Casey and everyone around her to help ease the transition.

Recently, Casey ordered women’s clothing online, and when they arrived at the house, questions arose.

“Through these conversations, it came out that Casey identifies as female and would like to dress as a female,” Holli explained. “It’s been a bit of a shift, and there have been a lot of questions from both staff and participants, but everyone is doing a great job. They’ve really continued working to make both home and work a safe place for her.”

The staff of Casey’s home – formerly an all-male home – have stepped up and learned skills like hairdressing and fingernail painting to continue to help Casey in the best way they can. Her housemates have taken it in stride, as well.

Outside of the home, Casey spends her days at the Ranch’s Supported Employment Program (SEP), the vocational program is managed by John Fraser. Though Casey’s transition was a surprise to John and his staff, they immediately knew what they needed to do.

“We want to make sure that she felt safe enough to come in, and we’re providing a safe outlet and a safe place to come, and we wanted to make sure the rest of the clients understood as well,” John explained.

Shortly after Casey began expressing her identity outwardly by dressing as a woman full time, Holli came in to speak with John, his staff, and all SEP’s clients. The clients had an opportunity to ask questions, and Casey had the chance to explain, with help from Holli, what was going on with her.

“That was kind of a changing moment for us as well,” John recalled.

“The group of participants was so accepting and asked some really good questions and kind of left it with a ‘well, you’re still our friend; no matter how you choose to dress,” Holli added.

“Within our Ranch walls, we can make a safe place and we can support caregivers and participants. That part has been really good, and we’ve had a bit more control over that to make Casey’s home and work into really safe places,” Holli said.

“Without that safety, we wouldn’t have got this true expression of herself,” she added.

“The client hasn’t changed,” John added. “She’s still the same person – she still comes to work and does a great job. She still plays crib in the morning.”

*name changed for privacy

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Lessons learned in MasterChef kitchen

Lessons learned in MasterChef kitchen

Posted by on Mar 25, 2019 in Whats-new |

Mitchell House unit manager Josh Miller is a familiar face around our Regina and Corman Park campuses, but soon he’ll be getting recognized even more.


Josh: Source MasterChef Canada/CTV

Josh will be appearing on the upcoming season of MasterChef Canada, a reality television show that pits amateur and home chefs against one another to earn a grand prize of $100,000 and the title of MasterChef Canada.

Josh, whose interest in cooking began before he could even see over the countertops, has been applying to the show for the past six years. From hearing nothing back after his written application the first year to making it to the telephone interviews in the next, to securing the face-to-face interview (the final step before selection) for the past three, Josh has inched closer and closer to being selected.

“Every year that I went, I kind of wondered, ‘I wonder why I didn’t make it this year?’ But I think just refining the dish that I made, looking at the textures or tastes or things you can do differently definitely helped in the process,” he recalled.

At this year’s audition, Josh made his grandmother’s chocolate cake.


Josh with fellow contestants: Source MasterChef Canada/CTV

“She gave me the recipe a long, long time ago when I was a kid. I made an upscale chocolate cake using that recipe, with buttercream icing and sponge toffee and homemade cherry bourbon ice cream, and a cherry sauce underneath,” he explained.

As luck – or maybe love, given the recipe’s family ties – would have it, this was the year Josh could have his cake and eat it too – he was finally selected to compete on the show.

Though he’s bound by confidentiality and can’t give anything away about what will happen on the upcoming season – including whether or not he snags the grand prize – Josh was able to talk about what filming the show was like, including how he applied what he’s learned at Ranch Ehrlo to in the MasterChef kitchen.

“Just being able to think on your feet and make quick decisions; and staying calm – being in the kitchen is a lot like being on the floor here, sometimes. We’re working with some kids that need a lot of support, and you can’t panic. You can be panicking on the inside, but on the outside, you have to show nothing but calm – it’s important to have that in either place, whether it’s in the MasterChef Canada kitchen or on the floor of the unit.”

The show premieres on April 8th, but since the announcement broke Josh has received an outpouring of support from co-workers and clients alike.

“The support has been great. Everyone will have to tune in to see if I can take the next step to get that MasterChef title,” he said.

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Family ties at Matheson

Family ties at Matheson

Posted by on Mar 17, 2019 in Whats-new |

Even when our youth are no longer living at Ranch Ehrlo, they know they always have a place to return to.

No story illustrates the bond between youth and staff better than that of Becki*, who spent five and a half years at Ranch Ehrlo Society in Prince Albert; beginning at Alex Guy House and transitioning to Matheson House where she lived until last month.

“Becki is still very much a part of the extended family at Matheson House,” said caseworker Marissa Lafelle.

Matheson House is somewhat unique in that many of the youth who live there don’t have family discharge options – they often stay at Matheson until, like Becki, a plan is developed to help them transition into a more independent living situation.

“The staff becomes like their family,” Marissa explained, adding that most youth stay in the Prince Albert area, so the small community and ease of access to former staff allow the relationships to continue to flourish after youth have discharged.

This is very true for Becki, who said that one of the biggest challenges in moving on was leaving her Matheson House family.

“It made me sad, but I know I’m leaving them for a good reason,” she said.

Though Becki has transitioned to living in her own apartment through the YWCA Homeward Bound Oakdale program in Prince Albert, Marissa and Matheson House unit manager Ron Schlamp often head over to visit her in new apartment, and Becki has a standing invite to Ranch Ehrlo events like Winterfest and Awards Night.

Oakdale provides a safe and supportive living environment for young adults transitioning towards independence. The goal is to provide life skills and opportunities for youth to grow in areas of hygiene, cooking, budgeting, education, employment and connecting to community resources. Youth will have access to staff 24/7, opportunities to set goals and work on case-management.

But some of Ranch Ehrlo came with Becki to Oakdale. Her support worker through Oakdale, Kandace Korycki, worked at Ranch Ehrlo for five years and spent two of those working with Becki.

“She made a smooth transition to Oakdale thanks to the supportive team at Matheson House, and has been such a wonderful addition to our program at Oakdale – which I had no doubt that she would be,” Kandace said.

Ranch CEO Andrea Brittin concluded, “Thank you to all of you who have worked alongside Becki to see her off to this new stage in life. I believe that the single most important key to success when youth are transitioning is to have people available who they trust to call up and talk to, find support, or perhaps provide a shoulder to cry on when they need it.”

“Thank you, Matheson staff for being those trusting people for Becki.”

*name changed

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Unique volunteer experience

Unique volunteer experience

Posted by on Feb 28, 2019 in Our blog | 1 comment

For the past seven years, Ranch Ehrlo has been part of the International Volunteer Exchange Program, administered by the Mennonite Central Committee. They connect us with volunteers from around the world, who stay with host families and work at Ranch Ehrlo as educational assistants for a year. They receive all the same training as a regular employee of Ranch Ehrlo would receive. Our latest blog features one of those volunteers.

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