Brain Injury Association of Niagara Clubhouse is designed for people living with the effects of an acquired brain injury. It mimics a traditional work day, with meaningful work done during the day (making lunch, cleaning, etc.), and leisure activities afterwards (music, movies, etc.) Programs and support groups are also offered.
One Tuesday morning, a group of people gather around a table for a meeting. Some have brain injuries. Some do not.
Everyone is wearing a name tag. Steve. Tom. Mary Lou.
No one is wearing a label.
In fact, the easiest way to explain the spirit within a new clubhouse for people living with the effects of an acquired brain injury is this: "A bunch of people who work together; some have brain injuries, some don't," says Katie Hill, rehabilitation therapist and clubhouse co-ordinator.
Simple as that.
The clubhouse, a program of the Brain Injury Association of Niagara, opened its doors in September. It's a place for members, run by members.
Need a name for the Clubhouse? The members brain storm ideas, then vote on it. The choice must be unanimous. Want a coffee? The members make it. Hungry? The members make lunch together, with some supervision by Hill.
If anyone needs help, anyone can help. There are members who live with a brain injury and volunteers who don't. Hill is the only staff person. But no one is identified with a label, and everyone works side by side, as equals.
The clubhouse is open three days a week, and is structured like a work day. Jobs first (like cooking and cleaning), and leisure after (movies and music). It's funded by a three-year, $169,900 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant, and BIAN fundraising.