Dave Johnston brings his wife, Maureen, to Let’s Connect as part of her recovery from a stroke. (Warren Goulding/Citizen)

Cowichan Brain Injury Society struggling; break-in makes things worse

“Sometimes it seems like I take one step forward and two back”

It’s not easy being an advocate and caregiver for an underfunded organization. And some days are just a little harder than they should be.

“Sometimes it seems like I take one step forward and two back,” concedes Chris Rafuse, the driving force behind the Cowichan Brain Injury Society.

Operating as Let’s Connect, the organization has existed for about six years and relies on private funding (including Rafuse’s own substantial contributions) and donations from charitable organizations. Currently, Let’s Connect is working with about 100 men and women who have suffered some type of brain injury, offering rehab programs and socialization.

The latest setback came on the weekend when a thief broke into the carving shed and made off with an electric chainsaw, three electric sanders, extension cords and other items. The burglar made off with a battery-powered scooter but had to abandon it on Cairnsmore when it ran out of power.

Most disappointing was the loss of a mask being carved by master carver Rupert Scow. It was a commissioned piece and Scow, who has been leading the Let’s Carve program at the Banks Road facility for several months, says he was counting on the sale for his Christmas money.

“It would have been done in five days,” says Scow, who is recovering from a stroke himself as he works with other men who are coping with the affects of a brain injury.

“But you have to take the good with the bad,” he says, holding a new mask that he is working on.

“Of all the masks they could have taken, they had to take the one that was sold,” Rafuse says of the transformation mask, Scow had almost ready to be painted.

Meanwhile, Rafuse and Cowichan Brain Injury Society president Linda Roseneck are grappling with funding issues and looking for a new location for the program.

“We’ve got 900 square feet now and we could use three times that,” suggests Rafuse. “I get one or two calls a week and we need more space. The program is growing fast.”

The Society would like to have room for its successful Let’s Carve program and a 16 foot totem pole. Rafuse says working with brain injured people requires spaces that are private with minimal distractions as people attempt to regain speech and motor skills.

“The theft strikes a blue note for us, especially at this time of year,” Roseneck says.

“We may have to scale back some of our programs but our regular Let’s Connect drop-in and other programs such as Let’s Talk and Let’s Do Art will continue,”she said.

“We have outgrown our current location and must move before March 2020. We are applying for a federal charitable designation but this could take a year or more before we can receive funding for our brain injury program.”

Roseneck and Rafuse say the waiting list for things like speech therapy for stroke patients is long.

“A desperate husband called to have his wife participate in our Let’s Talk program because they were advised it is a one-year wait for speech therapy,” says Roseneck.

Dave Johnston is bringing his wife, Maureen, to Let’s Connect after she suffered a stroke on Sept. 18.

“She’s improving rapidly,” Johnston says of the life-changing medical crisis.

“I recognized almost right away what was happening thanks to all the commercials you see on TV,” he smiles, as his wife participates in a board game.

If you would like to help Let’s Connect, contact Chris Rafuse at 250-466-5872 or admin@cowichanbraininjury.org.

The organization has created a GoFundMe to help them to replace their stolen tools. Receipts will be provided for donations. Search for CBIS Let’s Carve Tool Replacement Fund at www.gofundme.com.

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Chris Rafuse with the scooter that was recovered after a break-in at the centre on the weekend. (Warren Goulding/Citizen)

Chris Rafuse with the scooter that was recovered after a break-in at the centre on the weekend. (Warren Goulding/Citizen)

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