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Daily Inspiration: Meet Elma Galimba


Today we’d like to introduce you to Elma Galimba. 

Hi Elma, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
Sunshine Projects: Our roots and passion 

I’ve been involved with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) for 13 years in a variety of roles. From primary caretaker to a young adult with special needs to fundraising and membership roles with organizations that serve the IDD community, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many amazing groups of these individuals and their families. We’ve become an extended family. 

For many in this community, there comes a point where traditional services to support their children become harder to access or unavailable. They “age” out of the system. Many of these young adults aren’t ready to extend their learning at traditional institutions for higher learning or vocational opportunities. I’ve spoken to many parents who also are struggling to find the right programs for their young adults that would cater to their individual needs. 

It was this compelling need that Sunshine Projects (www.sunshineprojects.org) began in December of 2019. We started with a limited number of in-person classes focusing on art, music, and dance. It was a slow start but the response was very positive. In early 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, and life as we know it came to a full stop. Programs from traditional service providers and even schools were closing down and many of these individuals were stuck at home with few alternatives for interaction, instruction, or even see their friends. We were one of the first programs to offer a meaningful offering of live in-person online programming to our community in March of 2020, even as people didn’t know what a ZOOM meeting was for. Our membership online eventually grew to over 50 families all over the DC metro region and the class programs grew to over 20 live online classes held each week taught by over 9 instructors. We’ve conducted over 1200 live classes since the pandemic hit and our family has grown from the DC metro region to all over the country. 

Our inclusive theater program which offers online and in-person camps has also been a huge success. We staged our first live performance in August of 2020 in Potomac, MD using all original plays written and staged by our participants. Through our amazing Director of Fine Arts, Tristen Geren, who runs our theater programs, our plays and actors have been awarded numerous awards by the theater industry, including Best supporting actor, original play (streaming), and many others in the DC area. We are so proud of their work and we look forward to the next live performance in April of this year! This program is open to all abilities and guided by very talented actors and production talents. 

As the world started to open again, we opened our doors to start both a summer in-person program and the Sunshine Projects Skill Builders Program. Our focus for the in-person program was a mix of social and vocational experiences to provide both a meaningful day filled with interactive activities and a community inclusion program so that our young adults have the opportunity to share their passions with our local communities and residents. We have always had the vision to help drive the entrepreneurship spirit in our young adults and asked ourselves, “If there isn’t a job open to them, then why not create one ourselves?”. We started a Dog biscuit business called Sunshine Barkery (www.sunshinebarkery.com) to utilize our love of dogs and the participants’ love for baking. We were lucky to have a real baker and a mom to one of our participants, Ellen Salazar, donate her time and energy to assist in making the perfect dog biscuits for our canine friends. Our “barkers” not only assist in making, baking, and packaging the treats but also in selling in public locally at various locations to the general public. Local customers (and their dogs!) love seeing our group and our barkery stands. 

We’ve also started an online flower shop, Joy of Petals (www.joyofpetals.com). I’ve been making flower bouquets for years and many of our participants have great skills that we can put to use in both arranging flowers, filling orders, and writing personal letters to our customers. The holidays were very busy with flower orders and best of all, you get the smiles when you see them deliver the flowers to our local customers. We are preparing for the upcoming Valentine’s Day which is one of the busiest days for flowers for the year. I know our team will be ready to put more smiles on more faces! 

I am so proud of all of our participants and grateful to the families that entrust them with us. We hope to do more as the year progresses. Even though the pandemic has put on hold many programs and services, we will be resilient and committed to ensure that our community stays connected, healthy, and strong! 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
We had a lot of trials and errors as it’s largely just myself and my partner, Jon Yune, doing everything. We’ve had overwhelming support from our community and parents to help. 

The pandemic certainly had an impact on services and programs offered to those in the IDD Community. Many traditional providers have closed and/or are full. 

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1 Comment

  1. Elma Galimba

    February 18, 2022 at 3:03 pm

    Thank you so much! My heart is full! I love my community! My Sunshines are my inspiration! They are my rock! Thank you Voyage for getting us out there!
    “Don’t stop Believing!”

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