Peter Leung finds inspiration, shares passion, at dream job: By Abilities United
Abilities United is all about the abilities, not the disabilities. Just ask Peter Leung, who lives with cerebral palsy, holds a BA in kinesiology and has had a successful 21-year career as a staff member at Abilities United. After two decades, Peter still loves working here. “I’m so excited to be here,” he says. “It’s a great place.”
Peter is a recreational swim and fitness instructor as well as an American College of Sports Mediicine (ACSM) hydrotherapist at Abilities United Aquatic Services. In the 93-degree water of the Betty Wright Swim Center, he’s seen some amazing achievements including individuals who, through hard work and aquatic therapy, regain their mobility despite having been told they’d never walk again.
One of his favorite stories is a young girl with autism, who was terrified of getting in the water. “It took six months to get her from playing on the steps in the shallow part of the pool, to go with me into three feet of water. After a lot of hard work she’s completed the entire swim school curriculum and can now swim with the rest of her family. That’s what Abilities United is all about – including everyone. She doesn’t have to just watch from the deck while the rest of her family enjoys the pool.”
“It’s phenomenal,” Peter says. “I came here thinking I was going to inspire people, but they are the ones who inspire me.”
In 2009, his dream job just about came to an end due to medical issues. “Because of my cerebral palsy, my biomechanics changed and I was having trouble walking. I went to a doctor, and he referred me to aquatic therapy…here at Abilities United!” Therapy in the pool has helped improve Peter’s ability to walk and has been very helpful to reduce his pain so he can continue to work at this job he loves.
Peter is proud of his success as an employee at Abilities United, and is similarly proud of the increased level of employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the community. “It’s not charity; you need to do the job,” he says. “The individuals who get jobs with help from the Abilities United Employment Services are committed to their jobs and very capable to do their work. Some of them get up at 5:30 in the morning to take two or three buses to get to work on time.”
“All my life I knew that I wanted to work with people who have disabilities,” says Peter. “For me, Abilities United is a dream come true. I’ve found an organization that has the same passion as I do.”