Families meet over 1 year, learn from each other, create change
Community Living Ontario hosts family leadership series
Wednesday August 8, 2012 -- Michelle Strutzenberger
Community Living Ontario is hosting a unique family leadership series again this year that has cultivated rich dialogue leading to shifts in thinking and commitment by families who've been involved before.
The purpose of the series is to bring families together to learn from one another and figure out how to create change.
"They're supporting each other, and then going back and encouraging other families in their home communities to enter into the same conversation," adds Community Living Ontario director of community development Kimberley Gavan.
The series is unique in that it involves entire families across Ontario spending four weekends together during the course of a year.
Having the whole family involved and committing to that experience again and again brings a unique and empowering depth to the conversation and relationships, says Gavan.
Laurie Frandsen is participating for the second year with her family, and, as all last year's participants were encouraged to do, she brought along two other families this time.
She says she experienced that different level of conversation Gavan describes, as well as what she calls an awakening.
"I just think we got into more societal issues, as opposed to just what's going on in our own personal situations," Frandsen tells Community Living Leaders.
"I felt that we were trying to encourage each other to think past our own families and go out into our communities and encourage other families to do the same in terms of the issues of inclusion and rights and belonging - all the community living kind of values."
Frandsen adds her perspective on a few societal realities has shifted as a result, including her expectation of what people and organizations should be offering people who have a disability.
"I think sometimes you can just be so happy that somebody is offering something to help you feel included . . . and I've kind of changed my view on that, where it's like, 'Wait a second; we're supposed to be included; I don't need to be grateful that we are.'
"So I have higher expectations than I used to."
Frandsen also says her sense of the importance of continuing to advocate, especially for her son, has been reignited.
"If you're not advocating for somebody, it's not going to happen by itself, unfortunately, so I think that was reawakened in me, that we can always wait for somebody else to do it, but sometimes you have to be that someone else."
Frandsen invited two families to this year's leadership series whom she knew would not only benefit but also go back and encourage others - maybe not to form an organization or become political activists - but certainly to be
inspired to "keep the fires burning."
She notes for some families it can be harder to pack up and take part in a weekend like this than stay at home where it's "safer and easier" so she was very pleased to see the two that did come.
"It just shows what kind of people they are," she adds.
-- More to Come
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