'First steps into the working world': Montreal candle store helps young adults gain life skills
Students with intellectual disabilities learn important entrepreneurship skills
With the holidays around the corner, Brandon Riddoch decorates brown paper bags that are used for gift wrapping.
The 22-year-old meticulously swipes his paintbrush, filling in his drawing of a bright green Christmas tree adorned with ornaments he drew by hand.
Next to him sits another drawing of Santa Claus and his reindeer flying over London's Big Ben.
Riddoch is pretty proud of these drawings, and says he's loved art since he was a little kid, especially cartoon drawings.
"Not to be a bit of a bragger, but I am a very gifted artist," he said.
Light A Dream is brightly decorated with candles, ornaments and other trinkets. It might seem like any other charming shop in the West Island, but the store doubles as a non-profit organization that runs a program for young adults with a range of intellectual disabilities.
The students are from the Lester B. Pearson' School Board's co-operative education program, and the store is a space where they learn business skills and become better prepared for a job after graduation.
They do everything from shop for materials, clean the store, help customers, and run the cash register.
She smiles widely when she talks about her experience at Light a Dream.
"I really like doing the candles because it's fun and you can make your own," Fecteau said, pointing to a display of sprinkled cupcake candles which are neatly displayed on a gold tray.
She's been working there for two years and said the store is a place where students can explore their creativity and learn valuable work skills.
Another 32 alumni also work at the store on evenings and weekends.
Light A Dream has been running this program since it opened in 1999. It operates solely on donations from the general public and from West Island Community Shares — an organization which helps support 40 charities in the West Island.
All the donations go toward keeping the store open and the program running.
Students flourish at Light A Dream
For many of the students, it's their first steps into the working world, said Heather Laframboise, a teacher at the co-operative education program.
All her students work at Light A Dream.
"Light A Dream is a very comfortable place for them to come. Many of them are very leery of people they don't know," she said.
She said over the years, she's seen many of her students flourish while working at the store.
"It's lovely to see the confidence that they have and it's nice to be able to say that they started here," said Laframboise.
For Riddoch, he hopes practising his art at Light a Dream can lead to a career.
"My biggest dream is to basically use my skills and bring it to a movie company."