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Noelle Leslie smiles for a photo.
November 12, 2019

Donors enabling the transition from patient to employee

Noelle Leslie has a unique understanding of the patient experience at Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre (RJCHC). Born with cerebral palsy (CP), Noelle spent much of her childhood visiting Chedoke Hospital, which housed the services now offered at RJCHC. She received speech therapy and physiotherapy, and was an active member of the Youth Advisory Council.

“I remember growing up knowing I was different,” Noelle recalls. “I had to do things differently and it would take me a bit longer.”

The youngest of eleven siblings, Noelle decided from a young age that she wasn’t going to let CP stand in the way of her goals. She recently completed a Bachelor of Social Work and landed her first professional role.

“I can’t drive, so that was a big barrier,” she says. “A lot of social work jobs require visits to clients’ homes. Even if I could get there, most of them would not be accessible to me.”

An exciting opportunity thanks to donor support

With support from Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation, an opportunity arose to enhance the Family Resource Centre (FRC) at RJCHC with a dedicated role to explore and further develop patient and family leadership. Noelle was chosen for this position.

The FRC supports families and staff with accessing information and resources, such as books and potential learning opportunities in the community.

As the newest FRC assistant, Noelle will draw upon her experience as a patient to inform decision making and improve programs and services. She has already made recommendations for enhancing accessibility at the site.

“I really appreciate the donors who made this possible.”

“I want parents to know what their kids are capable of,” she says. “When you’re young, that is when you’ll have the most support to learn and grow. That’s the best time to push yourself because you have a support network if you need it.”

Noelle stresses the importance of asking for help from others when needed.

“I’m very up front about my needs, and try to think about them well in advance,” she says. “For example, I need a quiet space to use my speech-to-text program, which I inquired about within my first week.”

Noelle says RJCHC is a very accommodating workplace, and is grateful to have an employer who values her work. She realizes that asking for help doesn’t come easily to everyone. Her mantra—“Be confident in yourself and know you deserve it.”

Philanthropy enhancing accessibility

With National Philanthropy Day on November 15, Noelle is thankful for the donors who enabled her new role.

“I’m empathetic because I’ve been through what the patients are going through and I help navigate the system with them,” says Noelle. “I really appreciate the donors who made this possible.”

She hopes to see more people with visible disabilities in the workplace. Until it’s commonplace, she’s happy to lead the way. Her advice for anyone wanting to make someone with a disability feel welcome at work?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat themselves if you can’t understand them. It’s much better than pretending you know what they’ve said.
  • Speak directly to the person and give them every opportunity to express themselves and do things for themselves, if they’re able.
  • Be patient—it may take some people a bit longer to do some things, but they will get there.

Noelle can often be found wheeling around RJCHC. Don’t be afraid to stop and talk if you’re looking for a smile and a laugh to brighten your day.