LA2050

Tierra del Sol is creating volunteer pathways to employment for more than 600 adults with developmental disabilities in LA

Posted July 29, 2017 by Tierra del Sol Foundation


Kids are learning. Seniors are finding valued relationships. The homeless are being fed. People are having their needs met by volunteers at more than 130 nonprofits throughout Los Angeles.

These acts of service are the work of more than 600 adults with significant developmental disabilities. Have you seen them around town? Maybe not, but chances are, you've seen the impact they're making.

As part of Tierra del Sol Foundation's Pathways to Employment through Professional Volunteerism services, adults with disabilities - such as Autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy - are overcoming stereotypes and societal barriers to find their passion, connect with others, serve their community, enhance their skills, and prepare for careers.

Since Tierra partnered with LA2050, 45 participants started new volunteer jobs and 90% improved their skills. In the past six months, Tierra has welcomed 23 new nonprofit volunteer sites. While this project increases rates of volunteerism, it also impacts many of the other LA2050 CONNECT metrics:

  • Access to free WiFi and the total number of local social media friends and connections Angelenos have. If forced to live without support, most people with disabilities would be low income, with simple things would be out of their reach, such as relationships developed online. Joe, an artist in Tierra's Careers in the Arts program, relies on Tierra staff's WiFi to expand relationships, and as a result, local businesses have commissioned his art.
  • Cultural events. Volunteers are supporting cultural events, such as those put on by The Discovery Cube, dA Center for the Arts, and McGroarty Art Center.
  • Government responsiveness to residents' needs. Coworkers, who have recognized the contributions being made by others with disabilities, are taking action when that level of community engagement is threatened. A family member, of one of Tierra's clients, recently submitted this letter to The Daily News. Hundreds of individuals within the Tierra community have contacted elected officials to express their support of Assembly Bill 279. As of June 8th, it has passed the Assembly and is in the Senate.
  • Voting rates. In addition to increasing advocacy, this project has given participants the passion and tools needed to vote. They can use public transportation to get to their voting location, express their opinions, get time off of work to vote, and request specialized voting equipment.
  • Travel time to work and public transit riders. Tierra is developing new volunteer site partnerships so participants can volunteer closer to home. For example, Tierra identified six people who, after being trained how to use the MTA, were able to travel more directly and efficiently from home to volunteer site to meetings. This has drastically reduced the amount of time in transit each day, and increased their quality of life and volunteer service.

There is still more to be done! Summer is a key time for college students to volunteer, including the 144 students in Tierra's NEXUS College to Career program. However, it is often hard to find a position that meets each person's career goals and schedule. Tierra is working with the Summer Youth program, run by the City of Los Angeles and Mayor Garcetti, to create short-term paid opportunities for these students.

By the end of 2017, almost 600 adults will either gain a volunteer position or continue providing value to their volunteer site. Fifty of these people will obtain a new position, finding their voice and being recognized for their contributions.

What does this journey look like? Watch Meagan and Nuvia's stories here. Or read how volunteerism was the key step between Rocio's college education and her career. As Rocio describes it, “My journey has been so incredible. I never thought I would end up here…" (page 7).