Monday, November 23, 2009

Tools In the Toolkit (and deciding to reach for one)

Rural Warwickshire, England

I've just come /away from an impressive capacity-building event for family members with an adult son or daughter living with disability and who want to plan for their son/daughter's future.

This two-day event (I attended most of the second day), run by Our Futures,  was aimed at families who are taking a leadership role in their local communities, connecting with other families to build networks of planning and support.  The goal of such effort?  For their relative to have a rich inclusive life characterised by the presence of other people who can look out for the person, help with decisions, and fight their corner.

The two-day event comprised a range of presentations and conversation on a variety of topics, including:

  • making the decision for change 
  • building natural networks, such as circles of support, in the life of the person living with disability
  • housing options, including home ownership on a low income
  • micro-enterprise as a way of building a valued employment role in the community for a person living with disability
  • fundraising to help keep networks sustainable
The material was very practical and the family members I spoke with were very enthusiastic about how the material would help.

I also spoke with Ted Kuntz, a Vancouver-based Canadian who has written about his own experiences as a parent of someone living with disability, in his book, Peace Begins With Me.  One of his key messages, and one that he particularly explored at this event, was that if, as a person living with disability or as a relative, don't take action in pursuit of a good life for the person, then don't be surprised if no one else does, because who else will care as much as you.  This also echoes a key message that another Canadian, Michael Kendrick, shared with us at the 2008 Loop conference, which was that if you wait for someone else to rescue you then you will be waiting a long time.

In many respects this is a hard message, because certaintly I know from my many conversations with people, it can feel hard just getting through the day, without then summoning up the energy to push for change.

But push you must if you want to move towards the things you want in your life or that of the person you love.

As we said in the Loop proceedings from 2008 (copies available at JFA), the most important part of any plan is the decision to act.  Information and coalition can help with that, and i think that essentially this is what the Our Futures event is about.

By the way, I have acquired a couple of copies of Ted's book, and we will make these available on a loan basis to people once i get back.  So make a reservation now and get in early!

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