Archive for the ‘Be Inspired’ Category

“I could show her what I can do. How I shine.”

September 5th, 2017

This #WeBelongWR story about Christina moving towards her goals comes to us from Bridges to Belonging. Thanks to Christina for sharing her story!

Christina is a warm, creative and playful 28 year old living in Cambridge. “I make friends really easily. People are naturally drawn to me,” Christina notes. Her love for travel, cooking, and words is shared by her family. Travel plans keep people coming and going in the house she shares with her mom, two brothers, stepfather, and service dog Jester. Christina herself is studying to become a travel agent through Conestoga College, following in the footsteps of her mother Cathy.

Independent Facilitation is a key resource for Christina and her family, as she journeys towards greater independence. Though change can be uncomfortable for Christina, she appreciates this process of building a life lived according to her own interests and on her own terms.

At first Christina felt uncertain about Independent Facilitation. Would this be a program, like so many others, where Christina would be told what to do, or where she’d have to follow someone else’s plan? Soon, Bridges to Belonging had matched Christina with her Independent Facilitator. After they met a few times Christina realized that things would be different with Danielle. “She would never object to the plans I had in mind,” says Christina. “She basically went with my style and my ideas. And I appreciated that… She respects my decisions.”

Before being involved with Independent Facilitation Christina had already experienced some big achievements. When Jester, her seizure response service dog, entered her life in 2013, Christina began to be able to sleep through the night without fear, and make it through medical procedures on her own. Jester’s training helped her to be less apprehensive whether at home or out in public. The Big Fella, as Christina describes him, was a new source of support for Christina. She found some ease in everyday life that she hadn’t previously thought possible.

It was during this period of emerging confidence and independence that Christina welcomed Danielle into her life. “There was no checklist,” explains Danielle about their work together. Independent Facilitation happens organically. “It’s a process. It’s a lot of figuring out. A lot of trust building.” Danielle invited Christina to share some of her favourite pastimes with her. Christina loves cooking healthy foods, riding her horse Lionel, colouring, and painting pottery. By doing the things she most enjoyed with Danielle, Christina taught Danielle about herself. “Being with Danielle brought out my creativity even more. I could show her what I can do. How I shine,” Christina shares.

Christina and Danielle’s relationship is flexible and fluid, guided by Christina’s goals. Nothing is fixed in stone. Christina and Danielle often text together in between visits. “We talk about goals all the time,” Danielle explains. “And how to get there. And how to break them down. It’s a constant re-evaluation, like all of our lives.” When they focus on an immediate issue, like getting through a tough exam, Christina is in the lead, with Danielle as support. While Christina does all the work of preparing for the exam herself, Danielle is with her, helping her to break down the problem, and supporting Christina to find new strategies for coping. “Such a calming influence,” Christina says to Danielle. “No you are,” says Danielle. “No you are!” says Christina. The room fills with laughter.

One example of the flexibility in the Independent Facilitation process came as Christina worked on becoming healthier. Gyms were unappealing to Christina, someone who often feels uncomfortable in large groups and public settings. Danielle reached out to her network of independent facilitators to find a gym that might feel more welcoming, and found it in Active Souls. Though the fitness class itself did not meet Christina’s needs and was difficult for Christina to get to independently, the connections made at Active Souls were rich with possibility. With Danielle’s support, Christina created a new fitness plan. Now she meets regularly with Lindsay, one of Active Souls’ personal trainers, in her own home for yoga practice. Christina’s mom Cathy loves to listen from her office as Christina and her trainer breathe, stretch, and laugh together.

As Independent Facilitation has opened up new possibilities for Christina, it has also brought more joy to her relationship with her mom. Cathy has always been an important support to Christina. “But we’re together too much,” Cathy shares. Now Christina gets out a lot more without Cathy. It’s a relief to Cathy to know that her daughter is actively pursuing her interests and working on long-term goals that previously seemed impossible. These days when they have an hour together, it’s much less likely to be spent with Cathy driving Christina to one of her weekly activities, and more likely that they will spend it sharing an activity they both enjoy, like puzzling. Cathy is thrilled to see how the Independent Facilitation process has enriched her daughter’s life. “Christina is showing more independence and confidence every day… and my relationship to Christina, although it was always great, is less strained since I don’t have to be ‘everything’ and play every role in her life.”

christina3As an Independent Facilitator, Danielle is a neutral person with whom Christina can dream and make plans. The trusting relationship that Christina and Danielle have built together becomes very important when it comes to big issues. Housing is a topic that has long been off limits between Christina and her mom. Cathy hoped Christina would move out before she was thirty, but that idea made Christina fear that she was being abandoned. Danielle has helped both Christina and Cathy understand that housing can take many different shapes, and doesn’t have to be all or nothing. “There’s a program we’ve just started called Be At Home, for creative housing ideas,” Danielle explains. “We can match people up to just dip a toe in and try it out.” Gradually, with Danielle’s support, Christina is taking steps to figure out what creative housing could look like for her, on her own terms.

Christina recently wrote out her achievements, the words flowing with pleasure and pride. From completing a challenging college course, to nurturing special relationships as an aunt, her energy sparkles off the pages. Present in each line is the underlying story of Christina’s growing confidence and independence. By paying attention not only to who Christina is but also to her context, Danielle has helped Christina and Cathy to identify new and unexpected connections and pathways forward. This is one of the gifts of Independent Facilitation. It is a slow, ecological process that includes the person and the significant people in the person’s life. For Christina, this process is creating the space she needs to develop her own story of strength and discovery.

MENSA Games, Miso Soup, and International Presentations: Tim’s Experience with Independent Facilitation

August 17th, 2017

This #WeBelongWR story introduces us to Tim and his experience with Bridges to Belonging.

Tim is a charismatic, positive, friendly man who lives in Waterloo Region. He has two college diplomas, from Seneca & Conestoga College in Chemical Engineering and Environmental Engineering and is currently working on his third. In late 2015, Tim became involved with Bridges to Belonging, and was paired with Chaitali, his Independent Facilitator, to help him set goals and become connected with his community.

When Chaitali and Tim first met, Tim expressed some feelings of isolation, which prompted his first goal of connecting to more people. They began their journey by attending numerous community events such as Earth Day Eco Fest, the Dignity March, Jazzfest, and Indian Cultural Events. Chaitali and Tim have also explored many new hobbies such as Pickleball at RIM Park, as well as going to the movies with his friends.

IMG_20170816_151301One of their favourite things to do now is go to Games on Tap together twice a month with a group of individuals. They have now worked their way up to quite challenging games, and Tim has taken the lead by coordinating the games. His favourite game? Superfight. He explained how it helps with his debate and conversation skills as the players are asked to select a super hero, and grab 3 attribute cards to pair with their hero, while debating and defending their choices throughout. Tim is also very good at Mensa games and has made many friendships with the individuals in the group. Since they started at Games on Tap over a year and a half ago, there are now 8 regular friends who join them, and the group is continuing to grow. Chaitali gushed that “he is a great motivator!” as Tim is now encouraging his friends from Games on Tap to also set goals such as seeking paid-employment. Over the past year and a half with Chaitali, Tim has made meaningful connections with members of his community, and is confident enough now to explore many of these opportunities further on his own without the assistance of his Independent Facilitator.

Some of the bigger goals that Tim has set included finding a part-time volunteer experience, which has recently begun. Tim is now a volunteer Mathematics Tutor at Frontier College, which he “considers an honour due to the College usually only accepting university students”. As a college student, Tim feels like they made a “wonderful exception” for him. Tim is now teaching Number Ninjas for the first time, working with kids to “make math fun” by incorporating the use of games to assist in mathematical concepts. Chaitali grinned with happiness as she explained how “great Tim is at teaching!” Chaitali assisted in many of the steps leading up to this opportunity, including helping Tim get a Police Check.

Tim also wanted to increase his positive health behaviours, which included filling up his schedule to keep his time busy, attending local cooking classes (Tim now makes a delicious Miso soup) and stress relief practices. Sometimes exploration takes trial and error experiences, and Tim explained a time when Chaitali took him to a stress relief Mandala Drawing workshop. Although he enjoyed the colouring aspect, he did not find the workshop relaxing, but he agreed to try it once and from there they explored other options. They have now found that a good source of stress relief for Tim is reading books, so they find themselves frequently at Chapters together exploring book titles. Goals revolving around organization and increased planning skills have also been achieved to the point where Tim is almost too busy to fit Chaitali into his schedule!

Tim at the Autism Awareness conference he spoke at in Vietnam

Yet another massive accomplishment that Tim has made since paired with Chaitali is an international speech in Vietnam with Autism Awareness. Tim, alongside his parents, travelled overseas so that he could tell his story to a large group of high ranking individuals. Chaitali and Tim in the weeks of preparation constructed a speech and PowerPoint presentation. Leading up to this experience Chaitali also found a self-advocacy, speech group with Extend-A-Family Waterloo and felt that Tim could gain a plethora of skills from attending including eye contact, confidence and clarity. After the international speaking opportunity, Tim now continues to attend the speech group without Chaitali, getting great feedback from the judges involved.

Tim and Chaitali have conquered a lot of goals in the past year and a half and do not plan on slowing down. Looking into the future, Tim has large goals that he will be tackling with the assistance of Chaitali and Bridges to Belonging including finding paid part-time employment. Tim is currently enrolled in Quality Assurance courses part time in the evenings, which will hopefully get him to his final goal while Chaitali will be assisting with the resume writing process, searching for job opportunities and interview preparation.

“What do I want in a job? Practical and thinking, I want both!”

He is taking all the right steps towards being job ready by recently attaining his First Aid & CPR training certificate on top of his recent volunteer opportunity. All of these aspects will increase his confidence and skill set for future endeavours. With his strong and ever-growing initiative and communication skills, Chaitali is confident that Tim will find employment.

Tim loves that Bridges to Belonging is person-directed, as he found some of the services he used in the past tried to tell him what his hobbies and goals should be, instead of listening to what he wanted. He enjoys that he has a voice with Independent Facilitation and that he is heard. Plus, the goal orientation works for him: “I always go by goals. I have for my whole life.” He describes belonging to be a lot like inclusion by “incorporating everybody without the discrimination of disability, race, or gender. Everybody should be included!”

Currently, Chaitali is setting up opportunities for Tim’s goal of independent living in the community by working with Jessica from Bridges to Belonging’s project Be At Home to explore Tim’s creative housing options. This summer Tim and Chaitali are also planning on trying new hobbies such as lawn bowling, and increasing his independence by focusing on bus training with the GRT. Tim is very proud of his progress so far with the assistance of Independent Facilitation and is excited for what is to come.

The Business of Curating Dreams

June 7th, 2017

This #WeBelongWR story introduces us to Barb and her experience with Bridges to Belonging. This story was written for the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation, and is included in their 2016/17 Annual Report. You can read their full report here.

How Independent Facilitation is Making an Impact, one person at a time

Bridges to Belonging: The Business of Curating Dreams

There are four things on Barb’s bucket list: to go swimming, to sing in a choir, to belong to a church and, eventually, move out of the rural nursing facility that has been her home for seven years.

Barb, 58, is a good couple decades younger than most other residents. It was her husband’s illness that landed her here—“I just tagged along,” she says, though she herself lives with epilepsy and developmental challenges. Since he passed away, not knowing how or where she could go, she stayed put, hardly ever leaving the facility.

“It makes for a pretty isolated life,” says Lorna Aberdein, whose job, simply put, is to help people achieve their dreams.

Lorna and 10 other Independent Facilitators with Waterloo Region’s Bridges to Belonging provide person-directed planning and facilitation for 130 individuals with developmental disabilities or mental health concerns.

Since the writing of this story, Barb has reached her next goal – she is now a member of the St Andrew’s Church and Choir!

“The feeling of belonging is a human need, just like food, water and shelter.” But it isn’t easy for everyone: due to barriers, finding a place in community remains a dream for many. “Belonging means something different to each person,” says Lorna, who first focuses on a person’s abilities, needs and wants. “Then I work myself out of the picture so they can create their own relationships.”

What’s in it for Lorna? Well, it is more than a job. “I love to have an impact on someone’s life.” Lorna, also 58, has some formal training but also lots of life experience: her daughter lives with Down Syndrome.

For Barb, belonging started with a trip to the pool. She still recalls a teenage memory at Round Lake in Haliburton when she snuck off one night to swim the length of the lake. Barb, who uses a wheelchair, has never had a seizure while in the water. It was a freedom she never forgot and an opportunity that just never seemed open to her.

“We bought a swim suit first,” says Lorna, “then found a pool with a lift, plus Mobility Plus to get Barb there.”

Singing with the Waterloo’s “Buddy Choir” has had the biggest impact on Barb’s everyday life. Lorna accompanied her initially but now Barb attends on her own and she and many choir members have become fast friends. “Thank goodness, ‘causeI can’t sing for the life of me!” laughs Lorna.

Next on Barb’s to do list? Attending service at St. Andrew’s in Kitchener. “I haven’t been to church since my twenties. I feel like my prayers have been answered,” says Barb.

Greg’s Life With Independent Facilitation

May 2nd, 2017

This #WeBelongWR story and video comes to us from Bridges to Belonging.

“I like doing my job, I’m really proud of the work I do there. But I wasn’t feeling connected to my community. With the help of my facilitator, now I’m doing more things in my community.”

Greg is a charming young man who participated in the Independent Facilitation Demonstration Project. Dedicated and hard-working, he has worked on a farm for four years. Through work with his Independent Facilitator, he has developed a strong network around him who supports him in his community life – including exercising, attending events and sports games, joining a social club, and of course, Timmies!

Greg is an asset to his community and a friend to all those who meet him. Thanks for sharing your story, Greg, and thanks to Commons Studio for capturing it!

Click here to learn more about Independent Facilitation.

Mackenzie’s Talent Reel

April 13th, 2017

This #WeBelongWR share comes to us from Bridges to Belonging care of Mackenzie, Anthony, and Fitsum!

“You make me, a SUPERSTAR!”

MacKenzie dreams of performing for a living. She has been a dancer since she was three years old! MacKenzie attends St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School and will be graduating in June, 2018. She hopes to attend Conestoga College’s CICE Program. In the meantime MacKenzie is connecting with talent agencies and agents. Here is the latest MacKenzie talent reel!

This video is a combination of different places MacKenzie has performed. It was edited by another Bridges to Belonging Participant, Anthony Tamming. He and BtoBe volunteer Fitsum have been working on filming and editing skills.

A Community for All: The Art of Belonging

March 2nd, 2017

This post comes to us from Kim Sproul of Extend-a-Family. The Art of Belonging webinar will be hosted in Waterloo Region by Planned Lifetime Networks, New Story Group, KW Habilitation, Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region and Bridges to Belonging Waterloo Region.

Here in Waterloo Region, we have many people, places, organizations and initiatives all vested  in a single, shared dream – a Waterloo Region where all experience a warm, inviting sense of belonging. If I were to name only a few, like House of Friendship’s John Neufeld, along with his dedicated Board members, staff and volunteers have made belonging a central tenant to their vision of a healthy community. Then, of course, there is Waterloo Region Immigration Partnership, comprised of organizations and community partners in settlement, health, community, social services, business, and employment and education systems. Within their work, they have focused on three pillars, one of which being belonging. The Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre completed a survey, polling for data on the importance of belonging on one’s health. We also have a Community Foundation that uses the concept of belonging to better understand the needs in this particular community, publishing Waterloo Region Vital Signs. They have entire granting streams dedicated to projects that strive to address and increase belonging in our beloved community.  Then, of course, there is the developmental sector within which I work, where organizations like Planned Lifetime Networks, New Story Group, KW Habilitation, Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region and Bridges to Belonging Waterloo Region, have made a firm commitment to the concept.

What becomes apparent is that this concept of belonging is integral to our community. We seek it, study it, look to increase it, and finally, we are eager to celebrate it. We are eager to hear the stories where people share testimony about how belonging has shown up in their life. How it has made significant impact on their everyday story. This need to celebrate is why we are so excited to bring The Art of Belonging to Waterloo Region. We are eager to share in the celebration and learning that Partners for Planning is hosting in Toronto, where they invited six very special guests to share their stories. We are eager to engage in this very same conversation, locally, on the power of belonging and community. It is our hope that by tapping into these amazing speakers, we can help continue and further the story of belonging in Waterloo Region. Think new thoughts. Ponder different perspectives. Consider contextual and/or cultural variations.

We hope that many different people, from many different walks of life, will consider joining us on March 30th at TheMuseum for this free event. With time both before and after the speakers, we hope attendees will feel free to bring a local context to the stories we are hearing – find the parallels, the similar struggles and the powerful victories.

Check out the Eventbrite link to find out more, and to reserve your spot, as space is limited.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/art-of-belonging-attend-in-person-tickets-32424627935

“A community where everyone belongs is the community I want to live in” – A Volunteer Story

February 5th, 2017

This #WeBelongWR story comes to us from Bridges to Belonging. It’s a reflection on volunteering for Bridges to Belonging written by Christina Koenig, a member of the board of directors:

I do sometimes feel I am new to Bridges to Belonging Waterloo Region.  After all, my adventure as someone on a Steering Committee and now on the Board began not too long ago when I found myself searching for a new career.

I am sure many of you can relate as you all think of times when in your own ways you have taken on a new role. Currently I am a recording secretary. I take the minutes but I look to other people on our team to be mentors. I feel new.

This feeling changes when I repeat the vision statement to myself:

The Tragically Hip concert broadcast at Waterloo Square over the summer gave me a sense of belonging. People were watching this all over Canada.

“Waterloo Region is a community where everyone belongs-where we value meaningful relationships, honour choices and dreams and celebrate the uniqueness of each person.”

I know then that so many of my life experiences have connected me in very meaningful way to Bridges to Belonging. I have believed in this vision for as long as I can remember. I am now on the Board because of the variety of ways that Bridges to Belonging works to make this vision a reality. A community where everyone belongs is the community I want to live in.

While I learned about Bridges to Belonging as part of a recent job search, belonging was also important in my previous career. I spent many years working with newcomers to Canada.  I have lived in Canada all of my life and definitely feel connected to the outdoors and the snow. I just loved my most recent holiday at a cabin up north with opportunities to snowshoe and ski. I truly feel Canadian.

When I was working with newcomers I was part of a team that helped to facilitate the successful settlement of people from other parts of the world. Here I learned that my life is richer when I am learning about other cultures and getting to know people from different countries. Many of the newcomers I met shared inspiring stories, examples of perseverance and courage. Many of the stories were very different from my experiences. I learned about uniqueness, and this was a great thing.

This lesson was also instilled as a little girl. My sister and I are twins and we grew up with many challenges that come with having cerebral palsy. For my sister these challenges were very difficult. There are limits when it comes to the things she can do independently but we celebrate, and she celebrates when she can be a great artist, a great cook, and a great organizer.

My sister and I

To me even today there is nothing more unique than for my sister to love helping with a variety of household chores. I procrastinate and would rather be doing anything else. My sister loves the idea of helping my parents or friends with things which include washing dishes, and putting things in containers. I would prefer playing games or watching movies with her. As a family we try as much as possible to make sure she can make choices and be herself. This is one way that we can make sure that she feels a sense of belonging.

Belonging also means building meaningful relationships. When I was growing up my parents often worried about whether I would have friends. I am someone who walks a little differently. Sometimes, and especially in childhood this meant that developing friendships was not always easy. I was very reassuring to my parents. “Don’t worry Mom and Dad. I will make friends. You’ll see”. My idea was that I should do the things I love to do and hopefully make some friends along the way.

Today I love going to see live music at a variety of venues in town. Musicians are great examples of people who are being creative and being themselves. Concerts and events are always more fun with friends. The right friends will encourage learning and developing interests. Cooking is another creative pursuit I love. I am sure my friends are very happy when my interests happen to be baking something delicious or planning a fancy dinner party. Whatever I chose to do a friend cheers me on or offers me advice.

I also love sports such as yoga and running. I have many friends in the running community who are offering me training advice and cheering. I have enjoyed running for a long time and a few years ago I ran my first full marathon. This year I will travel to Ottawa to run a half marathon for Canada’s 150th anniversary but the biggest adventure yet will be travelling to Iceland to run a race.

The Silgrey cabin is the place my parents and I stayed over our holidays up North.

Being adventurous works great for me when I want to meet people and be involved in community. That said, I can imagine that there are times when more of a push, some cheer or creativity is needed to help people to connect. Bridges to Belonging is there as an organization to support people when this is a challenge. Since building great friendships is so important to my sense of belonging I really value this aspect of the organization. While sometimes my goals are relatively easy to accomplish friends are also there when crossing a finish line might be a bit more difficult.

The newest program that is part of Bridges to Belonging connects people to creative solutions toward living independently. Be at Home recognizes that people also need places to be themselves. This has been very important to me as well. There are too many stories on the news of places where people do not feel a sense of belonging today, and stories of walls being built. Especially now I think it is so important to find ways to be connected to organizations that bring people together. Bridges to Belonging is one of those organizations.

If you are interested to learn more please join us at our upcoming Jazz Night event.

Buddy Choir Sending Love to the Muslim Community

January 31st, 2017

In light of the tragic terror attack in Quebec City, the Buddy Choir wanted to counter hate with love, and “send some love to our Muslim friends.” Please enjoy “Today I’m Gonna Try and Change the World” performed by The Buddy Choir.

About The Buddy Choir: “We are an inclusive company who invite anyone to join. The only requirement is that you love to perform. We present our production numbers to the public to show that everyone can shine and when we all shine together it is magic! Our hope is life will imitate art where all are included regardless of skin, intellect, talents or years!”

Lyrics to “Today I’m Gonna Try and Change the World” by Johnny Reid

Today I’m gonna try and change the world
Gonna take it one day at a time
I’ve made my resolution
I’ve opened up my eyes
Today I’m gonna try and change the world

I’m gonna say hello to my neighbor
Greet him with a smile
Shake the hand of a stranger
Sit and talk for a while
Tell someone I love them
From the bottom of my heart
Today I’m gonna try and change the world

Today I’m gonna try and change the world
Gonna take it one day at a time
I’ve made my resolution
I’ve opened up my eyes
Today I’m gonna try and change the world

Gonna make sure my children
Know there’s a right and wrong
I’ll never turn my back
On those of us who need someone
I’m gonna try to see myself
Through another’s eyes
Today I’m gonna try and change the world

Today I’m gonna try and change the world
Gonna take it one day at a time
I’ve made my resolution
I’ve opened up my eyes
Today I’m gonna try and change the world

Today I’m gonna try and change the world
Today I’m gonna try and change the world
Not for me, but for those I’ll leave behind
I’ve made my resolution
Change it one day at time
Today I’m gonna try and change the world

See.me. More alike than different.

November 1st, 2016

For the month of October, the Waterloo Region Down Syndrome Society has been sharing pictures and quotes with our community as part of their See.me. campaign. We connected with Kate Herron and Colin Domm to hear more about the campaign and to share their initiative with #WeBelongWR. You can see all of the See.me. posts on the WRDSS Facebook page, and you can also buy their 2017 calendar here.

Colin Domm:

14563515_1322828604402609_6680701174596566851_n“This campaign is called ‘See Me’. What do you want people to know about you? 
“I am a young man who loves God and he loves me.”
What do you give to your family, friends, and community? 
“I am a good friend. I am a good helper.”
What are you good at? 
“I like to play hockey, soccer, baseball. I like music and playing the drums. I like computers and movies.”
When I say the word belonging, what does it mean to you? 
“Family. Belonging is having lots of friends.”

Kate Herron:

Where did the idea for the See Me campaign come from?
“It came from a good friend of mine, Hilary Gauld-Camilleri, who was the photographer for the calendar. I approached her about shooting our calendar and she decided she wanted to help us use her social media presence to make a big lead up to the calendar release and Down Syndrome awareness week.
14906833_1350866651598804_4853233996158177469_nWe discussed that we wanted to show the world that our friends and family with Down syndrome deserve to be seen for more than what they physically appear, more than their diagnosis. They have the same hopes, dreams and interests that every other person has and they should be seen for the people they are.”
What is WRDSS trying to achieve with the See Me campaign?
“We are as always trying to achieve awareness and show the world that individuals with Down syndrome are more alike their peers than different.”
What have you learned along the way?
“I have learned that despite the negative things that can and do happen in the world, people are kind and they are embracing and learning to look beyond physical appearances and seeing these individuals with Down syndrome as people with hopes and dreams and people that contribute in a meaningful way to society. I think we’ve truly opened peoples eyes to a whole new world!”
What do you hope people take from this campaign?
“I hope people share the magic that exists in the hearts of these individuals and give them opportunities in future to be included and share in the same experiences as everyone else.”

 

A Parent’s Story: Independent Facilitation

October 31st, 2016

This #WeBelongWR story comes to us from Bridges to Belonging. In it, Desiree tells about the difference that Independent Facilitation has made not just in her daughter Kelsey’s life, but in the family’s life. Thanks for sharing!

“At age 21 our daughter Kelsey finished her high school program. Where she had been spending her days in school, we were unable to find any suitable/affordable day programs for her to fill her now empty days. I was working part-time as a PSW the hours she was attending school, however, as she needs support throughout the day, I had to leave my job because it didn’t make sense to hire help for her.

For the next two years we were home together with little to do. This made her even more dependent on me which I found overwhelming. Our family was not in a very good place.

We were then contacted by Bridges to Belonging about Independent Facilitation. This became a life line for my daughter.

The Independent Facilitator met with her and they discussed her interests, life goals, and how to achieve them. The Independent Facilitator’s attitude was upbeat and “anything was possible”. Together they researched programs and volunteer positions in our community.

Over a year later our lives have completely changed. My daughter now has a very full life. She went from killing time at home to being out of the house every Monday to Friday. She has a volunteer position that she works at two half days a week. The rest of the days she is in day programs.

photo-kelseys-storyRecently I asked her about all of the changes now that she has an Independent Facilitator in her life. Her response? She told me that she now “has a life” because someone is in her corner, helping her figure out what the world has to offer her. She considers her volunteer position “a job” – something she never thought she would have. The two people in charge of her volunteer program constantly tell me how pleased they are with her work ethic and that she is a joy to have around. This makes her so proud (and her parents too).

As a parent I have watched her blossom over the past year. She is happy, her mood is better, and she is so much more independent. As she is now off in the day to her job, I have been able to go back to work myself! 

Our family now sees a light at the end of what was once a very dark tunnel. We see hope and a future ahead instead of darkness. I cannot stress enough how important Bridges to Belonging and Independent Facilitation is for us and other families.”

Our thanks to Desiree and Kelsey for sharing this story!