by Amber Rainshadow
My name is Amber Rainshadow. I am 55-year-old Aboriginal woman who lives with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
I grew up in 22 different foster homes, three religious institutions and a home for unwed mothers. There were moments of extreme abuse and neglect which left its mark and I carry to this day. It has not been an easy journey, but it has made me the woman I am today.
When I was young, I thought the goal was to be able to do everything myself, to be as independent as possible. My world began to change when I aged out of the foster care system and connected to a community named L’Arche Victoria. L’Arche and its founder, Jean Vanier, taught me that I am precious and loved no matter how I may appear to the rest of the world. Once I realized we are all broken in some way, that it is not possible for anyone to do everything for themselves, a huge weight was lifted.
The values of L’Arche also taught me how to build community with my staff who I hire with individualized funding. Most of my workers are quite young and come with very little training. Sometimes they feel awkward and nervous, but in the end they walk away with skills that they can take with them on their journey. We learn from and support each other.
Slowly over time I have gained the courage to speak my truth and to live my own life. With a group of wonderful individuals who assist me in day-to-day life, I am able to live as independently as possible in a way that works for me and my community.