A! Volunteer and Practicum Students – ii

On Giving Tuesday we are celebrating the mutuality of giving. University of Regina students join our team for a semester or sometimes longer.  Nick Cuthbert, Astrid Liska, and Bushra Burki are part of the A! team this semester.

Nick Cuthbert

After meeting with A! Executive Director Bonnie Cummings-Vickaryous and A! Program Coordinator Melissa Turbuck, Nick Cuthbert chose Astonished! as his practicum placement for his Bachelor of Sport & Recreation Studies. Nick felt Bonnie and Melissa would be good mentors in helping him achieve his learning goals: to expand his program management skills, and increase his communication skills in one-to-one, group, and professional settings.

Nick is the second son in his Weyburn family, and family is important to Nick. He brings his learned skills of caring, paying attention, and responding, to his practicum experience at Astonished! Nick partners with Student Researcher Sean Davis and they attend to Sean’s individual goals. The whole community benefits from the strong bond of respect, trust, and fun they have established. Nick also provides leadership in small group activities on Thursday afternoons in the Astonished! Teaching and Learning Centre. In his meetings with Bonnie and Melissa he has increased his knowledge and skills in budgeting and grant writing.

Students in Sport and Recreation Management develop a theoretical and practical understanding of the importance of recreational and leisure pursuits to a healthy, active and balanced lifestyle. Nick says his two major learnings have been: always focus on the person first, and in Yoga for Every Body he has learned a lot about connecting with a group of people.

Astrid Liska

Moving from a town of 575 people to a university of 16,501 full-time and part-time students can be a bit of a culture shock. Astrid Liska, from Raymore, Saskatchewan set two goals for herself as she entered this transition. She wanted to become more comfortable and confident.

Astrid is a first-year student in the Faculty of Nursing. As part of her CNUR 100 class (Practice Education: Community Partnerships) Astrid did 45 hours of placement work with Astonished! CNUR 100 focuses on communication and collaboration in a service-learning environment. Learners can begin integration of values of social justice and of socio-environmental perspectives, particularly the influence of social determinants of health. Astrid has been part of Yoga for Every Body and the A! Social Club. She says ‘I couldn’t have picked a better placement’.

She was drawn to nursing because ‘it is hands-on and interactive, and there are lots of options for what I do and where I do it.’ Astrid brought her willingness to learn and her attention to people and details to her work with Astonished! She has more than achieved her goals of becoming comfortable and confident. It has been great to have Astrid on the A! team this semester.

Bushra Burki

Bushra Burki is in her second year of Education at the University of Regina. She is working on a major in English and a minor in Chemistry. Bushra is interested in sciences and is curious about how things work together. She says this mindset informs her in both English and science.

Being curious about how things work together is also informing Bushra in her various roles this semester. In her Education Core Studies 300 class she is doing her field placement with grades seven and eight students at Dr. George Ferguson school. As a volunteer with Astonished! she is using the All Curriculum with Student Researcher, Kennen Dorgan, to help Kennen expand her literacy skills. Bushra has noticed how the All Curriculum highlights approaches that are useful to her in her field placement.

Bushra was also a leader in the Astonished! Summer Literacy program and you can learn more about Bushra on our Summer Literacy page . For Bushra one of benefits of being part of the Astonished! team has been getting to know individual people in the community.

Thank you to all of our volunteers and practicum students, past and present, and those we have yet to meet. Together we are making a difference.



A! Volunteers and Practicum Students – I

One of the great joys of Astonished! is the mutual relationships and mutual benefits of having University of Regina students join our team for a semester or sometimes longer.  Jasmine Galey, Hallie Burke, and Kathryn Derenisky are part of the A! team this semester.

Jasmine Galey

While living in Calgary, and coaching a group of children ages 8-12, Jasmine Galey had an experience that shaped the direction of her education. One of the children in the group had Asperger’s Syndrome and in order to help this child fully participate Jasmine learned ways for the child to be comfortable, feel ok, and for everyone to be able to do the activities together. Jasmine is in her third year of Education at the University of Regina with a major in Physical and minor in Outdoor Education while completing a Certificate of Extended Studies in Inclusive Education.

As part of her Kin 120 Rec – Persons with Disabilities class, which is taught by Astonished! Executive Director Bonnie Cummings-Vickaryous, Jasmine learned about Astonished! In addition to her assigned work in a practicum group creating a five-week activity program for older years students, Jasmine decided to volunteer with Astonished! She is a volunteer at A! Social Club events and in Yoga for Every Body. Jasmine says she is learning how much everyone can do if given the opportunity.


Hallie Burke

Hallie’s summer work as assistant manager at the Rocanville Aquatic Center was what first lead her to the Bachelor of Sport and Recreation Studies at the University of Regina. Now in her second year, Hallie is finding the program a good match for her interests. Hallie is doing her junior practicum (90 hours) as an assistant in planning with Astonished! Her focus has been preparing for the A! Walk and Roll that will take place on December 1st.

Hallie has been researching and seeking potential sponsorships for the Walk and Roll, writing grant proposals, and doing the background work of organizing and preparing for the event.  She loved working with the Canva software to create a beautiful sponsorship package, has come to understand some of the challenges of timing and fundraising for an event like this, and is excited to know that not-for-profit organizations like Astonished! are potential employers for her skills.

We have been delighted to have Hallie on the team. Some of our volunteers like Hallie are busy working behind the scenes and may not be as familiar to the rest of the Astonished! community. If you are at the Walk and Roll on December 1st check out the banners, the team bibs, the sign in process, and our sponsors, you will see Hallie’s hand at work.

Kathryn Derenisky

“May I sit and eat with you”? Kathryn Derenisky asks rather than assumes. Freedom of choice and using language that offers choice is both a natural and learned skill for Kathryn. Kathryn has been a camp counsellor at Camp Easter Seal and attributes some of her understanding of the importance of choice to her training as a camp counsellor. It is now second nature for her. Kathryn is in her second year of Education with a major in Social Studies and a minor in English and Inclusive Education. She also works as a substitute Educational Assistant in the Regina Public School system and is co-president of the University’s Best Buddies Chapter.

This semester Kathryn is volunteering with Astonished! by assisting Student Researcher Kennen Dorgan expand her literacy skills. Together they identify the sounds of words and Kennen types them on a keyboard. Kathryn is also a member of the A! Leadership Team, helping to plan and carry out monthly Social Club events for and with A! Core Members.

Kathryn says Astonished! offers people more opportunity to open up and express yourself, discover your personal interests and skills, and move toward your goals. Kathryn sums up her approach to life with these words, “Discrimination bugs me, difference makes us stronger.

Thank you to all of our volunteers and practicum students, past and present, and those we have yet to meet. Together we are making a difference.




Hillary Moffatt

Changing your life path is not easy at any age but sometimes life swoops in and invites you to make a change. Four years ago, Hillary Moffatt was a third-year apprentice electrician, pregnant with her second child, and living with excruciating back pain. Yoga was the only thing that helped alleviate the back pain, and yoga became the path that intrigued Hillary. Now twenty-four, the mom of two children (5 and 2.5), half way through her third year in Health Promotion in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina, Hillary is volunteering with Astonished! in our Yoga for Everybody class.

Hillary has completed her 200 hour Yoga teacher training and is currently working towards her 500 hour Yoga teacher certification. She teaches yoga at Oxygen Yoga and Fitness where she runs a kids Yoga program, and also teaches yoga to a boys’ basketball team (13 and 14-year old’s) for an hour each week. Her dream is to create an inclusive yoga program for children and youth ages 2-18, so volunteering with the Astonished! Yoga for Everybody, which is led by Rebekah Lindenbach and Ruth Blaser, seemed like the perfect place for Hillary to volunteer.

Hillary says “I love what I am learning about how people practice yoga in a wheelchair. When I teach yoga, the hardest part is to get people to feel relaxed and feel grounded physically and mentally. At Yoga for Everybody, everyone is able to come into shavasana (the final pose of any yoga class) in a way that is comfortable and relaxing for each individual participating.”

Welcome Hillary, we look forward to what we will learn together on this place where our paths cross.

Photo: Rebekah Lindenbach and Hillary Moffatt

Checking Out the City of Regina Low Floor Buses

Low floor buses are on all Regina bus routes and allow for easy access on and off the bus since low floor buses have ·  No stairs to climb ·  The ability to ‘kneel’ to get close to curb level ·  A low-angle ramp that unfolds to allow people with wheelchairs, scooters, baby carriages, or carts to board the bus.

A! Student Researchers Kennen Dorgan, Kaitlyn Hoar, and Sean Davis took their first rides on City of Regina public buses in October.

Sean has a network with the Realm Foundation. His network facilitator, Cindy Leggott, suggested he expand his transit options by trying out the regular city buses (Sean also uses the services of ParaTransit). Sean and his teammates Alix Norum and Parker Florell, prepared for their ride by checking transit maps, planning travel time, then Parker and Alix did a test run. This was a clever idea because they got on the wrong bus and saw much of the city over a two-hour period. Sean was happy to miss that experience. On their actual travel day, they went from the University of Regina to the Cornwall Centre and returned to the University. It was smooth sailing, and Parker got a new name. A person standing outside the mall saw Parker and called out, ‘Hey Cowboy Man’ because of his distinctive cowboy hat. You can check out their trip photos here

These are their travel tips: If you have a large power chair take the bigger spot behind the bus driver, there is an accessible stop button beside this space, push the button to alert the driver that you will need the ramp lowered at the next stop, you use the same bus pass as the one for ParaTransit, and if you need someone to assist you on the bus your assistant does not need to pay a bus fare.

The team of Kennen, Kaitlyn, Hannah Merk, and Julia Peters chose the same bus route as Sean’s team. To prepare for their trip they talked to ‘Team Sean’ about their experience, phoned the City Transit Line (306-777-7433) for bus information (very helpful), and learned some things from their bus driver. They all agreed that using public buses was a lot easier than they thought it would be. They stopped for lunch at the mall, did some shopping, and Kaitlyn loved getting her eyebrows  threaded before returning to the University. You can check out their trip photos here.

These are their travel tips: There are two spaces for wheelchairs, with tie-downs for the space behind the driver, and on the opposite side, a device that holds the wheelchair in place.They were all impressed with this device. In the space behind the driver the person in the wheelchair faces the front of the bus, on the opposite side the person in the wheelchair faces the back of the bus.

Additional tip – if you are waiting at a bus stop and not sure when your bus will arrive, text 306-596-6136 and put the bus stop number in the message (the number is at the top right of the bus stop sign). You will get a reply telling you when the next bus should arrive at your stop.

National Volunteer Week April 23-29, 2017

April 23-29, 2017 is National Volunteer Week . Volunteers are essential to Astonished! and we want to celebrate our volunteers. Kaitlyn Hoar, Astonished! Student Researcher, is organizing our 2017 volunteer appreciation event. One of Kaitlyn’s goals is to expand her event planning skills so this is a perfect opportunity for her. Kaitlyn is teaming with Bonnie Cummings-Vickaryous, A! Executive Director, to plan and host a volunteer appreciation event Thursday April 27, 2017 from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm at The Owl at the University of Regina . When asked how she plans an event like this Kaitlyn responded that she begins at the end, imagining the event, who is there, what it looks, sounds, and feels like, what people are eating and drinking (in this case it will be appetizers and beer), and how much fun everyone is having. She then plans the details to make the imagined event a reality. When asked about her biggest challenge in planning an event, she responded ‘the budget’, this made us laugh as we can all appreciate this particular challenge. Thank you to all our Astonishing volunteers. Volunteers keep your eyes on your email for your invitation in early April.
We hope you will join us on April 27th.

PHOTO: Kaitlyn Hoar and Bonnie Cummings-Vickaryous

Introducing Amanda and Kelsey

Amanda Mahoney is a graduate of the University of Regina (U of R) with a Degree in Kinesiology with a major in Human Kinetics. She is currently working on her Bachelor of Education (Middle Years) (U of R). Amanda realized she loved teaching kids how to be healthy and work-out, thus her commitment to a second degree. Kelsey Culbert is an Astonished! Student Researcher, and a student in the University of Regina Campus for All. Together they make a great team.

They meet weekly to work on two areas Kelsey has identified need strengthening: her comfort and competence with her new laptop, and her skills driving her power chair.

Kelsey was familiar and comfortable with her previous computer but when she upgraded to a new operating system she found it frustrating (many of us know how that is). Amanda and Kelsey work together to adapt the laptop to Kelsey’s needs, for example creating short-cuts on the desktop for the apps Kelsey uses regularly. Kelsey loves the portability of her laptop because she can now study anywhere.

They also practice wheel-chair driving on the track at the Paul Schwann Centre, University of Regina. Amanda says it is easy to team together because Kelsey is very clear about her needs. For example, Kelsey identified that she has problems staying to the right when she is driving so the track practice is helping her strengthen her driving skills.

Amanda is a volunteer with Astonished! but both Kelsey and Amanda say this is more like friends hanging out. Thanks Amanda and Kelsey.

PHOTO: Amanda Mahoney and Kelsey Culbert

Gestures of Love

Noticing gestures of love is like eating good food, it nourishes us. At Astonished! there are many gestures of love to notice. For example, the way the Student Researchers, staff, and volunteer lean in to listen to one another as they ‘check in’ at A! TLC; or the generosity and faithfulness of donors; or the way Core Members keep one another in the loop.

A particular gesture of love is the gorgeous quilt Phyllis Matt created specifically for our annual fundraising event, Wings on Our Wheels ~ Astonished! in Flight 2016.

Phyllis is a Registered Nurse who has lived and worked in many outpost communities in Northern Canada. Phyllis says ‘Part of quilting is about building a “Great Stash” of fabric and friends’. Quilting has been a great way for her to meet new people from all over Canada.  She now works and lives in Saskatoon and spends much of her spare time quilting and reading at the lake.

Thank you Phyllis for adding Astonished! to your ‘Great Stash’.

Celebrating Volunteers

How do you define ‘volunteer’? This is a situation where the dictionary definition misses the mark. There are no dictionaries that include ‘relationship’~ ‘mutual benefit’ ~ ‘fun’ ~ ‘creative’ ~ ‘generous’ but all of these words can describe volunteers and their experience at Astonished! In the photo above Brenda and Kennen are discussing their A! volunteer photography practice. Astonished! volunteers develop and share skills in the Astonished! Teaching and Learning Centre, participate in Social Club activities, are members of committees, help raise funds, serve on the A! Board of Directors, partner in research projects, and so much more.

We could not do what we do without the generous support of volunteers. On Wednesday, January 13th we hosted a wine and cheese party to say THANK YOU. To see photos from this evening please click here…..