The Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association (CANSA) provides persons with disabilities with employment training and work experience through its Everything in a Jar project.
Inclusion for persons with disabilities from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds is a difficult sell for employment opportunities and training. CANSA developed Everything in a Jar as a training pilot program for persons with disabilities to develop teamwork and leadership skills, as well as customer service and entrepreneurial know-how. The product consists of the dry ingredients needed for baked goods such as muffins, cakes or cookies, which are packaged in mason jars and labelled with ingredient lists and instructions. The products are sold by CANSA clients (persons with disabilities) at local farmers' markets, fairs and workshops showcasing their talents.
The program supports individuals who want to work and stay in their communities. Everything in a Jardemonstrates how to utilize society's best resources – its people – as they move forward towards full inclusion of persons with disabilities. After gaining training and work experience through this program, individuals have been able to move on to other opportunities.
The Best Practice model represented by Everything in a Jar is transferable to any organization or business, large or small. An investment in persons with disabilities today becomes a strength for organizations and businesses tomorrow.
The initiative was inspired by persons with disabilities who have never been afforded an opportunity to work in paid employment. CANSA wants to give them a meaningful work experience.
The initiative was directed towards persons with disabilities who lack the training and skills they need to enter the workplace.
The goal of the initiative must be considered from the perspectives of both the organization and its clients. CANSA's goals are to place persons with disabilities in an employment environment, give them training and provide work experience. Clients' goals are to create product awareness and set targets for customer sales and future prospects (for Everything in a Jar as well as for personal professional development).
Cumberland County, NS has the highest per capita rate for persons with disabilities.
CANSA took over services for persons with disabilities in 2006 as it was already experienced in working with disadvantaged groups (African Nova Scotians and youth at risk).
Its first challenge was to become more educated on 'disability issues,' which encompass more than just infrastructure. It examined behaviour, communications, employment and technology, and how best to serve a segment of the population that also faced other barriers to becoming part of the workforce.
The Everything in a Jar project, which was created internally by two staff members, won a 2012 regional Lieutenant Governor's Persons with Disabilities Employer Partnership Award.
Making a Difference
One-third of CANSA's client base self-identifies as having a disability. This initiative has led to better community awareness and has opened the door to improving what has been a great difficulty in educating employers to hire persons with disabilities. CANSA promotes this small social enterprise not only as a training ground, but also as a way of presenting these individuals as well-trained, ready to work and committed to sustainable employment.
Inclusion is a hard sell when talking about disadvantaged and marginalized people. CANSA has made an inroad and continues to be a leader in Cumberland County.
In planning the Everything in a Jar initiative, CANSA had a large client base to draw from, and the commitment from its clients was there from the start. Funding was required to purchase inventory and clients were willing to do without profits from sales until the project could generate sufficient funds to produce sufficient product. Once this was achieved, CANSA was able to obtain subsidy funding through programming, and provide a wage to clients during training.
Vision for the Future
CANSA will continue to market individuals to employers. The Everything in a Jar product and service continue to be showcased at workshops and during local community presentations, and 'former' project clients have been involved in sharing their success stories, including through videos.
CANSA is developing the model into a sustainable employment tool as a social enterprise for persons with disabilities.
About the Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association
The Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association is a non-profit agency which has provided specialized employment services to African Nova Scotians, persons with disabilities, youth and the community of Cumberland County at large since 2000. In addition, CANSA is well-connected to the community, with over 40 local partners and 10 provincial/federal partners dealing with employment, culture and technology.
The Province of Nova Scotia and the Black Business Initiative have recognized CANSA for its commitment to race relations and cultural understanding.
CANSA's staff and board are actively involved – through CANSA and external organizations – in health, education, policing and community services aimed at promoting awareness and understanding through volunteerism.
Best Practice Contact
Elizabeth Cooke Sumbu, Executive Director, Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association 9
63 Victoria St. Amherst, NS B4H 4E1