Meet Our Members
Zola Auld ~
Hi…my name is Zola and I am 18 years old. I go to Reynolds Secondary School and I am in grade 12. I love to sing and dance, and even lip-synced to Katy Perry’s song “Roar” at the VOCYL Talent Show last May. I also love to swim, bowl and play badminton and soccer….but I don’t do bikes! My best friend Cassidy also goes to VOCYL and we have been stuck like glue together since we were 9 years old. I have Down Syndrome and because of that some people have misconceptions about me. Some people might think that I’m not smart, but I am and I hope to one day go to University to study biology. I’m a great friend, I’m very loyal and I love to reach out in compassion and generosity to others. Because people sometimes see how I might be different than they are, rather than what we might have in common, I was often teased, bullied and left out. It was harder for me to make friends and I didn’t have many friends when I was younger. VOCYL has been great because I get to hang out with friends in a place where everyone is kind and feels included. At VOCYL what I have to say is important. I think a big reason why some people treat others badly or leave them out is because they haven’t learned to like themselves and trust themselves the way I have. I want to challenge you to think about how it might feel to be left out and treat people how you want to be treated. I also want to challenge you to get to know people that might seem different than you…you never know you could end up making a great friend like me!
Angela Manocha ~
My journey with VOCYL began almost five years ago on a ferry ride home where I met and began chatting to a VOCYL member. She recommended I become a volunteer because it was, and I quote, “the happiest place to be”. The following Thursday I showed up, unsure of what to expect; but within only two steps was warmly greeted by numerous VOCYL youth. There was so much love and laughter in the room and in no time I became part of the VOCYL family. Each individual in this group brings their own charisma, beliefs, and beauty in addition to their strong will for advocating equality and drive to make their community a better place; a place where everyone belongs. From the hundreds of amazing things that I have been able to be a part of in VOCYL, one of my favorite aspects is hearing the personal stories of each youth. Sometimes it is easy to forget or consider the hardships many of the participants have faced in their lives. But when they tell their stories, you realize what they have been through and what has led them to become such strong, powerful and persevering human beings. It is truly remarkable and I often leave transformed and ignited to change the world the same way they do. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of VOCYL and all the love and joy it has given me. It truly is “the happiest place to be.”
Evan Wingerter ~
A VOCYL member for over a year now, Evan Wingerter has truly become part of the VOCYL family. Evan is 20 years old, loves Dr.Who, is a daredevil that loves bungee jumping and zip lining, collects comic books, works hard at his job and one day hopes to work in the trades. “Looking at me,” says Evan, “you wouldn’t say you could see any sort of different ability. And while that’s true on the outside, on the inside Autism has had a huge impact on my life.” School was very difficult for Evan, especially when it came to making friends. “My anxiety made it hard for me to look at people in the eye and I was afraid to reach out to other students and share how I was feeling. They thought I was strange and I was often bullied”. Despite the challenges that Evan has faced, he still has a positive outlook on life and says, “I now try to celebrate my differences. I have been told that I look at the world in a thoughtful and compassionate way and have a strong sense of what is good. One of the things I am most grateful for is joining VOCYL. There is a wide variety of amazing and caring people who also want to be understood. We are a collection of real life superheroes who want to include everyone and share the message that everyone has the right to belong.” Evan has been a huge asset to the inclusion presentations at Middle Schools this past year as he has shared with grade six students his own personal story of inclusion and belonging. Tracy the VOCYL coordinator says, “Evan was fearful at his first presentation. School was never a positive place for him, so sharing his own story, struggles and triumphs with over 30 middle school students was a courageous step for Evan. The students ended up giving Evan a round of applause and thankfully for us, he hasn’t stopped since!”
Thanks Evan for your commitment to VOCYL and the inclusion message!
Ciarra Blahitka and Corinne Eisenstein ~
Looking at these two girls you might think they were sisters, even twins maybe. They both have blonde hair, great smiles, a love for Facebook and shopping, a wicked sense of humor, and even the same birthdates! Ciarra and Corinne are not twins or sisters though. They do, however, share a great deal in common including being born with cerebral palsy, a motor condition that affects various areas of body movement. Because of this, Ciarra and Corinne have to rely on others for many components of their physical care and support. “This can be really frustrating,” says Ciarra. “Most young people love being independent and doing things on their own, but for Corinne and I this is a challenge.” Despite their different abilities, Corinne and Ciarra are both actively involved in their community and have participated in activities that many might think is impossible for them such as rock climbing, canoeing and bowling. Corinne and Ciarra have equally experienced the pain and loneliness of being segregated and left out because of their differences. Thanks to VOCYL, they finally feel like they have a place where they are valued for their contributions. “VOCYL has taught me to speak up for myself, which has boosted my self esteem,” says Ciarra. “I love that I’ve not only met new people, but I’ve made lasting friendships with other youth, both with and without disabilities,” says Corinne. Ciarra and Corinne want to challenge others to look past what they see on the outside and to get to know the person underneath. “When you see people that might look different than you, remember you might actually have more in common with them than you think, “says Ciarra. Corinne shares that belief and continues by saying “I like being able to share my story with other youth in the community because it helps them see that I have many of the same interests and dreams as they do. I hope to make people see that on the inside, we’re all pretty much the same and that we all just want to be accepted for who we are.”