Halifax Heroes: Meet a man creating positive experiences for people with special needs
Justin Eweka of The Club Inclusion has "an amazing knack" for making everyone feel important, says his nominator.
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Justin Eweka is passionate about creating fun, positive experiences for people with special needs.
The 32-year-old is a recent recipient of a Bhayana Family Foundation Award. He was nominated by The Club Inclusion’s executive director Alice Evans.
“Since we first started running programs in 2008, Justin has been a part of The Club 'family'. He's got an amazing knack for making everyone feel special and included, and he uses it every day at The Club,” Evans said.
“Like all our staff, Justin goes above and beyond in his work, helping after hours, putting thought, kindness, and compassion into everything he does. I especially wanted to nominate him for a Bhayana Award because he brought a tear to every eye and warmth to all our hearts when he paid out of his own pocket for a limousine to give rides to Club members at our prom.”
Eweka started as a volunteer with The Club Inclusion almost 10 years ago when his twin sister Jenn was a member. The Club Inclusion is a non-profit based in Halifax and Dartmouth that provides social, cultural and recreational programs accessible to people with disabilities.
“It was just a theatre program that they ran on Saturdays (when it started). My twin sister is special needs and they needed people. Someone was like ‘Well Justin, you have all the experience. You might as well do this,’” he recalled.
“So I tried it out, it was fun. I enjoyed it so I kept coming back and volunteering to do it.”
When his beloved sister Jenn passed away a year and a half ago, Eweka stayed on with The Club where he is now a paid employee.
He said he knew Jenn would’ve wanted him to stay on, and he enjoyed what he did.
“Just picture what your highest level of excitement is and that’s where she started. It was just constant happiness, excitement all the time,” Eweka fondly said when asked about his sister Jenn.
“She was a huge mother hen. Super protective of her friends and always happy and just always ready to go and super loud. So I’m loud too. I had to compete for sound.”
As a session leader with The Club Inclusion, Eweka helps facilitate the various programs offered to The Club’s participants.
“What moves me most is them (members) having that desire to want to go and do it themselves and every day I see something that lets me know through them that I’m doing a good job and that it is worth it,” he said.
Eweka was reluctant to be a Halifax Hero and insisted on recognizing Emily Flinn, Justin McGarragh, Jackie River and Kari Plaggenborg.
He said those staff members who worked closely with him were equally important.
“We’re all really a family and we all see special needs as not the title special needs. They’re just people like you and me and we treat them as such,” Eweka said.
“It’s more that we’re there to help them achieve whatever it is they want to achieve. That’s not who they are. We don’t define them by that.”
Evans said people like Eweka definitely make a difference.
“Justin has talents and expertise that might not always be highlighted in a world that so often puts money before human connection, but these rare qualities deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated,” she said.
Do you have someone to nominate?
Each Monday, we will profile an unsung volunteer hero in our community as part of Halifax Heroes. To nominate someone, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Metro Halifax's managing editor, or Tweet @metrohalifax using the hashtag #Halifaxheroes