Kim Calsaferri Receives Honorable Mention for the City of Vancouver’s Access and Inclusion Award

Kim Calsaferri, an Occupational Therapist and Manager with Vancouver Coastal Health, who has worked hard to promote service user and family involvement in the mental health system, was honored for her work recently with an honorable mention for the City of Vancouver’s Access and Inclusion Award. She was nominated by Erin Goodman, Susan Inman and Renea Mohammed.

Kim graciously consented to have her speech appear as a blog entry on this site. In it, she tells the story of “Mary”, a woman, now passed away, who was one of the first Peer Support Workers in the Vancouver Mental Health system and who was well-known for her inspiring, thought-provoking and humourous public speaking.

The Downtown Eastside, where “Mary” lived for over 30 years is the poorest part of Vancouver.


From left to right: Sharon Marmion, Renea Mohammed, Mayor Gregor Robertson, Kim Calsaferri, Kary Otterstein, Regina Casey

Kim Calsaferri’s Speech

Your Honor, City Council Members & guests,

Thank-you very much for this recognition today; I am honored. I would like to give a special thank you to my colleagues, Erin & Renea and to Susan, a family member who has a loved one with mental illness who put my name forward for this award.

Access and inclusion for people with disabilities is close to my heart and paramount if all individuals are to lead full lives and be true citizens in our communities.

Today, I think about a colleague & friend I’ll call Mary, who passed away 20 years earlier than what is average in our society.  Mary had schizophrenia and moved into her own apartment for the first time at age 57, after living in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) for over 30 years.

She contributed a great deal to the mental health system giving back to others as a peer support worker and often joined me and others to educate mental health staff and the public about mental illness.  At the new staff orientation we would ask people; “What’s important in your life?” Ponder this for a moment.

What always surfaced was health, family and friends, intimate relationships, fun, relaxation, a home to call your own, work that gives purpose, and full access and participation to our communities.  Mary would say this is what we all want.

In the earlier years of Mary’s life before she became ill at age 28 and for the last 10 years of her life, after she had her own apartment on Commercial Drive, Mary had all these elements in her life.  Prior, she was a working mom of two, had her own apartment in Kitsilano, and very much enjoyed friends and her interest in politics.  After, she reconnected with her children, worked as a support worker and contributed much to the MH system.  Imagine the outcome for Mary if access to housing, family support and inclusion in work and her community had happened 30 years earlier.

The City and its partners have been working very hard to develop and expand housing opportunities for people who are homeless and live with mental illness and addictions. I congratulate you on this work.

However, we all know there is so much more to do, to create a civil and just society and full participation for all citizens. Breaking through the red tape and barriers to access to supports, addressing stigma and discrimination and supporting people with decent affordable housing, creates a city where full participation is possible.

I accept this honor on behalf of all the Marys in our city today, in the hope that we will continue to strive to break down the barriers to access and inclusion for all members of our society.

– Kim Calsaferri

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