‘When were we most energized and alive as a movement?’
Reflecting on future, Community Living leaders first look to the past
Friday July 6, 2012 -- Michelle Strutzenberger
Doug Cartan remembers well joining the families advocating to improve the Special Services at Home (SSAH) program in Ontario about 20 years ago, and the “tones of energy and aliveness and attraction and magnetism” bursting around that activity.
Families were concerned even then about the program and rallied together to advocate for change.
Cartan, a Community Living Ontario consultant, recalls bringing together about 100 families in a Toronto ballroom to help people find a vision of the program for the future.
He describes those days as some of the most energizing and alive times in his work.
“That was a bit mind blowing even for me and here I was organizing things.
“I just loved that energy to make a difference in those years around SSAH.”
As the Community Living movement in Ontario continues to reflect on its future, people have been invited to share their work or organization’s past moments of greatest energy and aliveness, the notion being there could be clues in that for new direction or innovation.
Cartan says in his experiences, both the one mentioned and others, people gathering together to push through resistance in order to promote and protect the interests of those they love or those in a vulnerable situation seems to unleash some of the greatest vitality and engagement he’s seen.
Other stories have a similar theme.
South-East Grey Support Services executive director Maurice Voisin remembers being just new on the job when a call came through on a Friday morning that a young man who had been living in a children’s group home didn’t want to go back after visiting his family. The question for Maurice was, can your agency support him?
“I said, ‘Yes,’” Maurice recalls, not stopping to think how exactly they would do this.
He then learned the hope was that the young man would have another place to stay by the following Monday — and the urgency of the situation became really clear.
But it was tremendous how the staff responded, Voisin says, now years later. He remembers calling in fairly late on that same Friday and finding several of them still there, working through the details. Again, people were inspired to join in a cause that involved meeting the real and urgent need of someone in a vulnerable position.
His colleague Diccon Garrett adds that what contributed to the energy and success of that experience was a spirit of thinking outside the box; of starting with the answer yes and “taking it from there.”
“We certainly were able to capitalize on an opportunity by just saying we are going to make this happen just because it is the right thing,” says Garrett.
— More to Come
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