Following What You Love

Michael Nedolin, from a mid-sized eastern Ontario community, illuminates the universal quest for community and belonging. Michael shares his journey of exploring and connecting his passions with opportunities that his facilitator unearthed in his community.

Michael, at age 24, tells of his experience of building connections and relationships that started with his passion for tropical plants, animals, and Spanish music. His facilitator Emily began imagining local opportunities where Michael’s strengths would be valued and his passions supported. Emily succeeded in making the connection with the local arboretum, linking Michael with a volunteer team caring for Peonies. This weekly volunteering opportunity came with an entry pass to the on-site farming program where Michael is welcomed to visit farm animals. “I was hoping that she could help find me a job dealing with plants or farm animals because I love plants and animals. I like the environment. I was happy because I love plants.” Michael anticipates working with others on his team and with plants, building communication skills, social skills and moving forward toward with his longer-term goal of paid work.

Together, Emily and Michael also explored the many ways a relationship with music could be fostered to support his love of “the beauty and romance” of Latin music and discovered the appeal of local Zumba classes. Michael shares “It teaches discipline to follow what the teacher says.” Michael and Emily anticipate that there will be other outlets for his love of music. Michael also noted that he is now enjoying more frequent visits with his parents where he can share the excitement of his passions.

Michael lives with two other housemates and expressed to Emily, the desire to share his interests with others who have common passions, adding, “I would be bored if I were alone.” Emily is assisting Michael to intentionally expand his social network.

Both the independent facilitator Emily and Michael’s mother, Angela, recognize and acknowledge Michael’s strengths: his openness to opportunities, articulation; his extensive knowledge of tropical plants; his long held passion for plants; his good memory; and his increasing independence. His mother shares, “It was a thrill to see Michael and Emily discussing his passions…Emily has been able to make those connections with him…Michael is excited and we are excited for him…He has been able to contribute.” In reflecting on Independent Facilitation, Angela asserts, “This is definitely unique. We were looking for ways for him to interconnect with other people and we were not able to find them. Up until now it has been a dark tunnel…I feel now that tunnel is moving forward and I can see the light.” Michael added, “Thank you very much. I am really happy with the success.”

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