Choosing to start a new career in the midst of a worldwide pandemic wasn’t exactly one of the easiest decisions Laura Friesen ever had to make, but as it turned out it may have been one of the best.
Friesen joined the Epic Opportunities team in August 2020, shortly after graduating from university with a degree in sociology and just five months after COVID-19 became a daily presence in everyone’s lives. And even though navigating through the regulations and restrictions of the pandemic has presented some challenges, Friesen says starting when she did has proven to be a blessing in disguise.
“I really had nothing to compare it to. It just seemed like normal to me,” she says, laughing.
Friesen, a Senior Residential Manager for Epic Opportunities, was already pretty familiar with the community living sector prior to joining the organization. She worked part-time for Community Living disABILITY Services (CLDS) while attending university and often interacted with staff from the various service agencies that report to the provincial government department.
Soon after graduating from university, Friesen spoke with a friend who was working as a disability support worker (DSW) with Epic Opportunities. The friend spoke highly of her experiences with the organization which got Friesen to thinking how she could best put her sociology degree to use.
“My studies were all about how people interact. And I was always interested in one-on-one, interpersonal relationships. It was always kind of on my radar,” she says.
Friesen initially joined Epic Opportunities as a DSW with the agency’s residential flex team. She worked at a number of different homes with a wide range of people and calls it a “very meaningful experience.”
This past January she was hired for the position of Senior Residential Manager. In that role she oversees the services at two homes and provides guidance to a team of about a dozen staff at each of the homes.
For Friesen, the best part of the job is the connections she is able to develop with the people being served by Epic Opportunities.
“I really like being able to work through the highs and the lows of people’s lived experiences,” she says. “You get to witness some really exciting moments. You get to go through it with people at a very human level. You get to be part of some really huge life moments.”
One of the more memorable moments of Friesen’s time with Epic Opportunities occurred last November. One of the homes she was working in at the time had to deal with COVID situation. As a result, Friesen chose to remain at the home for the next two weeks to provide support to the residents until everyone tested negative.
Although it was a difficult situation, it proved to be an important learning experience for Friesen.
“It was very tiring and trying at times, but it made me realize how important the work we do is, and I know how much it is needed.”
It’s no secret the pandemic has created new challenges for everyone.
It’s been no different for Friesen. In addition to dealing with all of her regular responsibilities, she now has to deal with a host of new logistical issues and rules and restrictions designed to keep people safe. The key, she says, is being adaptable and willing to roll with the changes.
“Things are changing all the time. You think about it 24/7,” she says.
“What I tell myself mentally is I’ll show up for the people I’m supporting and that I’m going to do what I can to make them as safe as possible and the rest of it is out of my control. I try not to think too much about what is out of my control.”
One thing that hasn’t changed for Friesen during the pandemic is her love of the outdoors. She often walks through the neighbourhood where she lives and is looking forward to camping season. When she’s not outdoors, she can often be found curled up with a good book or lending a hand to one of a number of community projects.