Working as a family at ESH

Text: Brandi Salas / Photos: Kaydee Johannsen

The staff at Easter Seals Hawaii (ESH) is not only made up of qualified professionals, but warm-hearted, caring individuals with a story of their own. Two ladies, Program Assistant, Liza Ganiron, and Activities Coordinator, Arlene Garo, share their experiences at ESH.

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ESH participant Joshua enjoys the social interaction and skills training he receives at the Ewa Adult Day Health Program.

At ESH’s Ewa Adult Day Health program on Oahu, the atmosphere is a bit different from the other Adult Day Health programs; it’s quiet, calming and serene, well-suited to the needs of non-verbal participants with developmental disabilities. The program is split into two houses. One is for medium functioning non-verbal participants; the second is for low-functioning non-verbal participants that need extra care and support. This program also supports those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The atmosphere requires a large amount of patience, skill and expertise to help participants achieve their goals and encourage independence.

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ESH’s Ewa Adult Day Health provides many activities and opportunities for adult participants in addition to skills training.

Among the staff working in small groups or one-on-one with participants, you’ll recognize Program Assistant, Liza Ganiron, by her laugh and sweet voice. Liza moved to Oahu in 1988 from her hometown Laoag City in the Philippines to be with her husband and family. She has been a Program Assistant at ESH for three years and she fell in love with the organization immediately. Her main responsibility is to support and transition participants between tasks and activities while helping them achieve their personal level of independence. When it comes to 25-year-old ESH participant, Joshua, Liza uses her most gentle voice and lights up when Joshua smiles back at her. “I teach him signs, feed him and care for him,” said Liza, “Josh is like my son.”

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“Working here in Ewa is like being in a second home,” said Program Assistant Liza Ganiron.

Also working with Joshua and other non-verbal participants is ESH Activities Coordinator, Arlene Garo.  Arlene was born and raised in Oahu and has worked for ESH for more than 13 years. Arlene has a strong medical background as a CNA (certified nursing assistant) and worked in a hospital. Arlene soon realized that she needed a job that didn’t require demanding hours but was also fulfilling and involved an area she was already familiar with. “I have a close cousin who had a developmental disability. I already have that background,” she said. Arlene has grown in her position at ESH. “I learned how to plan the days, work with staff and ask participants what they like to do.”

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Activities Coordinator Arlene Garo said, “If you could spend one day and experience the daily activities and special moments at our program, you will soon understand that we treat our participants as if they were our own family.”

As an Activities Coordinator, Arlene is responsible for keeping participants active and at their top level. This includes: monitoring participants, organizing activities (involving horticulture, cooking, communicating with pictures, using sensory experiences, etc.) and providing emotional support for parents or caregivers. “It is a fun job to be creative, learn and make people happy. Also, communication with parents is vital,” said Arlene. But she also adds that it takes a lot of dedication, “It’s not about money, it’s about love. My participants are the reason why I choose to stay with Easter Seals Hawaii.”

Joshua’s parents, Penny and Jim Ellsworth are happy with their son’s progress while attending the program at ESH. “We appreciate the Easter Seals Hawaii’s staff. They are genuinely concerned with respect to the families they serve. When they work with Joshua, they are consistent in all they do with him. We have seen such an advance in his everyday living skills. We have seen such maturity with him. They are very caring and giving.”

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The ESH Ewa Adult Day Health (ADH) program sits on two historic plantation home sites on Renton Road. It is one of three ADH programs offered on Oahu that offer participants a full-range of activities to choose from: daily excursions, art programs, volunteering in the community, computer classes with the aid of assistive technology, learning money skills, weekly hula classes, etc.   

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