A story showcasing student learning experiences at UBC — ways for students to participate in community service learning, research, internships, mentorships, international opportunities and co-op experiences.
When UBC developmental psychology student Natasha Ingeniero took a Reading Week placement at Surrey-based Options Community Services Society in 2015, she knew a bit about autism and developmental disabilities. What she didn’t know, however, was that with support from UBC’s Centre for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL), she was about to kickstart a social sustainability project that would benefit hundreds of children and their families for years to come. Another thing she couldn’t have guessed? The project would go on to inspire a similar initiative in a neighbouring city.
It’s just the start of what’s possible with the Chapman & Innovation Grants.
With support from Options and UBC’s CCEL, Natasha hatched a plan: to recreate, from the ground up, a ‘Snoezelen room’ — a controlled, multi-sensory playground of sorts for the children being served by Options’s Special Services for Children and Families (SSCF) program. These are children with autism, anxiety disorders, and developmental and physical disabilities — children who find peace and calm in the water walls, bubble tubes and LED lights of these proven therapeutic spaces. From her conversations with the staff at Options, Natasha knew there were similar offerings for families in Vancouver, but no such supports were conveniently located in the surrounding Surrey community. She also knew that the CCEL at UBC supported exactly this kind of community project through its Chapman & Innovation Grants.
Guided by the staff at the CCEL, Natasha drafted a proposal and applied for grant funding to make the Surrey Snoezelen room a reality. Administered by the CCEL and ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, the Chapman & Innovation Grants provide seed money for students such as Natasha and community groups to work together to put their values into practice and give life to their ideas for making society a better place.
With the CCEL and Options helping her throughout the grant proposal-writing process, Natasha gained clarity around the project goals and identified her target audience. She learned how to plan ahead and build a detailed budget. From there, Natasha assembled a small group of UBC student volunteers to assist her in making the Snoezelen room a reality. It was a risk and there were no guarantees of success. But that’s what the grants are for — to allow students those ‘stretch opportunities’ and to learn from the experience. Working with CCEL and Options staff, she and the student team set about planning a safe and interactive space for the children in the SSCF program.
The team members visited the Snoezelen room at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice to gather ideas. They found bubble tubes. They ordered voice-activated light strips. They shopped for disco balls. They painted. They laughed.
They created a much-needed space for the community.