Cheryl Fisher, a wife and a Kamloops mother of two has made it her mission to make sure her son Nicky, who lives with autism, receives the best supports possible and is a thriving and included member of his community. Cheryl found all of this and more in her hometown of Kamloops.
“When I moved to Kamloops in 2001, I felt an instant sense of belonging, not just for me, but for everyone in my family,” said Cheryl. “It wasn’t easy, we moved a few times but I was determined to make sure Nicky was given the best opportunities to succeed in life. I knew right away that Kamloops was the place.”
Fourteen years later, Cheryl’s family still lives in Kamloops, her daughter has attended Thompson Rivers University, her son Nicky is employed, has many friends and lives in his own home with supports. “It’s quite something to look back and see how far we’ve come,” said Cheryl. “I remember the challenges we faced, and we still face some, but I learned so much over the years. Having a son with a diverse ability teaches you to be resourceful, to embrace community and be present.”
It is her years of wisdom and her appreciation of all those who have been a strong presence in her life that drove Cheryl to volunteer her time as chair of Community Living BC (CLBC)’s Thompson Cariboo Community Council.
“I wanted to be around others who looked at community inclusion the same way I did,” said Cheryl. “I wanted to give Nicky a voice in the community, I wanted to guide others and I wanted to learn from others.”
Cheryl has been the hair of the community council for over three years; the council has a combination of individuals with diverse abilities (self advocates), parents, service providers and community members. Councils work collaboratively with community partners to support community inclusion, citizenship and full participation of people with diverse abilities. Over the past three years, Cheryl has lead her council to host many inclusive events and initiatives in the Thompson Cariboo including a conference for self advocates and Community Living Month festivities. She has also helped self advocates proclaim Community Living Month at City Hall.
If being the chair of the council wasn’t enough for this very busy working mom, Cheryl recently became chair of CLBC’s Provincial Advisory Committee (PAC). PAC is comprised of one person from each of CLBC’s 14 Community Councils and they provide information and advice to the CLBC Board.
“I joined the PAC to see what people in other communities were doing so I could learn from them and bring their ideas to council and to share our ideas with them” said Cheryl. “The PAC brings together such a collaborative group of people who all want to make their communities more inclusive, and by working together and with our community councils across the province, I know that we are making great strides.”
“Inclusion is not just about supporting people with diverse abilities, but about supporting all people to recognize that everyone has valuable contributions to make,” said Cheryl. “When I moved to Kamloops, I felt that people supported me, they wanted my family to succeed and wanted us to be part of the community. Being a part of CLBC’s community council and PAC has been a rewarding experience for me. I believe it’s important to be a voice for those who sometimes cannot step forward, and to help other moms out there who were like me 14 years ago.”
For more information on CLBC’s community council and how you can become a member please visit: www.communitylivingbc.ca/about-us/community-councils