This story was written for the Ontario Independent Facilitation Network and Bridges to Belonging. It tells the story of a community of people coming together to support the dream of independent living for three sisters in Waterloo Region. Thanks to Bridges to Belonging for sharing this, and a huge thanks to Danielle, Emily, Connie, and their parents.
Danielle, Emily and Connie, three adult sisters living in a mid-size urban Ontario community, share their path of transition in creating a successful move to living independently together in an apartment in the same neighborhood as their parents. This is a journey about three siblings and their parents, which began two years ago and expanded to extended family and friends during the last 6 months prior to their May 2016 move. Independent Facilitation was paramount in this transition process.
Finding allies for your hopes and dreams for living independently in the community is not always easy when existing service structures do not align with the dream. Connie, Emily and Danielle believed that they could live together in the community, as did their parents. Having carefully considered a range of options, the girls and their parents decided on renting a three bedroom apartment in a new building in an ideal location within walking distance of their family home. Their mother, Lynn, recalls how the energy and anticipation grew among the sisters. Lynn explains, “For two years, for the holidays and birthdays, we were thinking about things for when they would move and started storing them. We watched this building being built and saw this apartment and felt it was perfect; five minutes from our home. We walked in and I could just see them here.”
When Connie’s independent facilitator met with the family, she talked with the sisters about what dreams they had for themselves and to their mother about the family vision. The facilitator recognized the family’s proactive initiative toward making this transition to independent living for the three sisters. She listened to each of the sisters and the parents, wanting to make sure that each of the sister’s voices were heard and the family vision was expressed. Since each of the sister’s had their own facilitator, it was important that they all worked together to make this dream a positive reality. The three facilitators worked collaboratively to maximize resources, and found that the sisters had some shared dreams, like attending cooking classes together. They also had individual dreams including, Connie’s interest in making new social connections, Danielle’s dream of having a puppy one day, and Emily’s hope of working by providing home cleaning services in the future.
How could facilitation assist with implementing the sisters’ dreams and the family vision? What were the concrete steps that they could take? The facilitators began with these questions and developed a strategy with the family of how to expand relationships among friends and extended family to assist with the transition and the dreams. The sisters and the parents were excited about the idea of holding a planning session with other people in their network. They began by creating an invitation list that ultimately provided a foundation of commitment from a strong community network of natural support from family and friends. Meeting for several hours, this planning process with 30 people created a PATH that outlined the dreams, action steps, and concrete ways that this network of caring people could participate in the transition process. This network of family and friends explored questions around how they could contribute to the girls’ dream of living independently together in the neighborhood.
Reflecting on the planning day, Lynn the mother, said: “The generosity just overwhelmed me. People were all so excited to be there at the planning session. The girls felt great about it.” As one of the facilitators notes, “Everyone was here at this planning session because they care for this family and they wanted to participate.” Once the discussion got going, there was a deeper understanding of what the girls needed and how everyone could contribute. Lynn reflects, “Once the space was created and people were engaged, they created a calendar and people signed up in whatever way they were able to contribute, whether it be rides for Emily returning from work in Elmira, hanging pictures in the apartment, having Connie for tea and cookies, having housewarming showers; a pantry shower hosted by the church, and another by our sister-in-law hosting family, friends, and neighbours.” Lori, one of the facilitators added, “There were concerns about the three living together. We want Connie to be safe, so we explored what can we do to keep Connie safe and what can we put in place?’” Lynn shares, “I have done up a list of phone numbers for the girls of those in the network and circle of support.”
These supportive and trusting relationships of family and friends continue and have strengthened a sense of community and feeling of safety and support. One of the facilitators emphasizes that, “Tools and principles in the power of bringing people together was exemplary, and created such a positive and proactive energy.” The planning session and the calendar helped everyone in the extended network to know what is happening, what the family needs, and how support circle members can help.
Lynn reflects on the move to the apartment, noting that the path planning session created confidence among supporters because it brought the community together, and enabled deeper relationships to develop. Everyone feels that without the path planning session it would have been much more work. As Lynn says, the planning day turned into joy and building of community.” Lynn adds. “I was getting so tired and I know even over the move in May, it was physically draining… but there were all these people offering to hang the pictures…they (our community network of family and friends) took over. It was this huge weight lifted; that support to be able to stay put…and my sister-in-law is running the calendar for family and friends to use for planning.” For the family, the move and the network that were created were a gift!
During the transition process, the facilitators linked the girls with cooking classes in the community and assisted them with creating a chore schedule. Lynn adds about each of their facilitators, “The girls are free to write to them and talk to them. I have been so impressed with the facilitators. They are really wonderful people. They make the girls feel so comfortable.” In reflecting on their transition process, facilitator Lori says, “You could see all the pieces, it was a matter of shaping it and putting it together.”
Since the move, increased social connections for the sisters are being made with the circle of extended family and friends. Connie, Emily and Danielle are seeing new relationships being forged; Danielle and her sister’s interest in new neighbors and dog owners in their apartment building, Connie’s social group gatherings playing pool, seeing art and enjoy time spent together, and Emily’s weekly market garden outings in the community, and shared cooking classes. Lynn notes, “The girls are now able to invite family and friends into their new home to visit.” While Connie feels it is fun living in her new apartment, she reflects on missing the puppies at her family home and is glad to be living so close that she can return to feed them during the day and care for them when her parents are at work or out of town. Danielle’s reflection on the move reveals her anticipation of connecting with the local pet store nearby as she prepares over the next year for owning a puppy. Emily remarks, “I am loving it here. It is nice and close for walking or the bus. I like living on my own. I am learning to cook stuff and learning to keep the place. ”
Lynn adds, “That path planning was in January and the energy and connections have continued. We are going to Australia for three weeks and I feel so good about it.” With planning and facilitation, new and sustaining connections with community, friends, and family have been identified, built, and continue to be developed in support of the hopes and dreams of Connie, Emily, Danielle and their parents’ lives.