Developing leaders and networks
On March 30, over 40 self-advocates, caregivers and staff participated in a personal support networks workshop sponsored by the South Island Community Council and Self-Advocates for a Brighter Future in Saanich. The workshop introduced the “Support Networks: A Guide for Self Advocates” publication, and gave people a chance to talk about what networks are, who is part of them, and how stronger personal networks can be built.
“Self-advocates work very hard to break down preconceived notions of people with disabilities,” said David Steeves, Chair of the South Island Community Council. “To get out there helps break down the barriers and the fears. It takes huge determination and huge courage. Self-advocates deserve all the respect, time, support and effort that CLBC Councils can provide.”
The workshop was lead by Aaron Johannes and Susan Stanfield of Spectrum Society for Community Living. Self-advocates Mary Emmond, Michael Langridge, Ava Williams and Candace Williams helped organize the venue, pizza lunch, and provided introductions, took registrations and set up the sound system. Michael’s nickname is “Mike-A-Lot” and he often DJs at events.
Aaron started the workshop with an introduction exercise to help the group meet others they didn’t already know, and to see who has common interests, a good place to start when thinking about new friendships. Susan and Aaron then asked the group to identify people that are in their support networks. For the group, this included friends, family, caregivers, church, recreation centres, transit staff, teams, and neighbours.
“When we do this exercise with people, even those people who feel they don’t have a support network realized they are connected,” said Susan. “Once they’ve done this workshop, or have read the guide, they also know different ways they can help make their network grow.”
Four self-advocates also joined Aaron to do role playing on the dos and don’ts of meeting new people. The don’ts included not frowning, not being rude, not leaving people out and not calling people names. The dos included making eye contact, smiling, giving someone a compliment, being polite and showing respect.
“Nasty equals nastier, and happy equals happier,” said Bridget, a self-advocate participant, “That means you get back what you give out.”
Aaron and Susan helped to develop the Support Networks guide, and have done extensive work with self-advocates to develop other tools to help them build relationships, such as the book, “101 Ways to Make Friends” (www.101friends.ca). Currently, they are working on a new project to collect self-advocates’ stories about their lives. If you would like to submit a story to this anthology, contact Aaron or Susan at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Support Network guide can be requested through your local CLBC Office and is also available on the CLBC website under Policies and Publications > Publications > Safeguards.