Volunteers on P.E.I. learn to customize toys for people with disabilities

Rachel Matheson, left, reassembles a toy with assistive technology during a workshop Sunday at the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils building in Charlottetown. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)
Rachel Matheson, left, reassembles a toy with assistive technology during a workshop Sunday at the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils building in Charlottetown. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)

Twelve-year-old Rachel Matheson was taking apart a toy dog, adding a wire here and switch there, and screwing it back together so it can be easier to use for a child with a disability.

She was among about 30 volunteers of all ages taking part in the first Makers Making Change event being held on P.E.I.

They learn skills such as soldering, 3D printing and wiring. Matheson, who has an interest in science and technology, was able to explore something new while helping other kids.

"I'm excited to work with wires," she said.

"In my school we're in industrial arts, but we only get to work with, like, wood and not metal till next year."

Makers Making Change is a federally funded initiative that helps people with disabilities achieve their goals and reach their full potential.

It includes an online platform and workshops like the one held Sunday at the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building in Charlottetown.

It was in partnership with STEAM P.E.I., a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire young Islanders to pursue learning and careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Stacey Janzer/CBC
Stacey Janzer/CBC

The projects are matched to the skill level of the volunteers, said Courtney Cameron, east region co-ordinator for Makers Making Change.

"We get a bunch of people in the room, we give the instructions, parts, and tools to do it and they sit down and build a bunch of stuff for us and then we can give them to the people in the community who need them."

Assistive technology can be expensive and difficult to find.

Cameron said she's always on the lookout for trendy toys like Peppa the Pig or Paw Patrol to see if they can be customized perhaps for someone with mobility issues.

Stacey Janzer/CBC
Stacey Janzer/CBC

"Toys are such a big part of kids' lives and being able to play and develop so our ability to adapt some of these toys and then get them to kids who need them just fills a very huge void."

Amber Jadis, CEO of STEAM P.E.I., said she was happy to see people working together for the benefit of the community.

"I think making with a purpose is really wonderful, and thinking of others in doing that."