I am a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. I believe in sharing my talents and experiences by giving back to the community by giving my time to coaching, church and especially to the disability community. I truly believe that all men and women are created equally.
Dan Wilkins said "A community that excludes even one of its members is no community at all"
It was Vel Phillips (http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/topics/phillips/) who said “Most of us really aren’t aware of what we can do, until we do it.” These words ring so true to me. Not being born and raised in Milwaukee, I first learned about Vel earlier this year during the Partners in Policymaking (http://www.wi-bpdd.org/projects/partnersinpolicymaking/partnersadvocacytraining.cfm) class that I attended. I was reminded of this quote during the first night of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (http://www.wi-bpdd.org/) Annual Retreat.
This year’s Retreat was held in Milwaukee. The first night, we spent at Arts@Large (http://artsatlargeinc.org/contact_staff.php) where we saw an exhibit by Milwaukee area students on the March to Equality – 200 Nights in Milwaukee, as seen through the eyes of the NAACP Youth Council. A great exhibit. This included a quote from Rev Martin Luther King Jr. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We worked on an art project with People First Milwaukee (http://peoplefirstwi.org/page2.php) that will be displayed in our Madison office
The next morning we started at Creative Employment Opportunities (CEO) (http://ceomke.com/). We heard from Director Laura Owens on how individuals are being creative when it comes to competitive employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. People who are willing to think outside the box. We were able to see some individuals at their jobs.
We spent the afternoon focusing on a Supported Living Campaign. We shared ideas on what it means to be a part of our community. We heard from self-advocates, parents, service providers and Government agencies. We were able to come up with a goal and some next steps. I learn so much by listening to the self-advocates.
The final day was spent reflecting on our accomplishments of the past year; helping to expedite the lifting of the Family Care Caps, passage of a Seclusion & Restraint Bill, passage of removing the “R” Word from State Documents, passage of Vocational Diplomas, On the Job Trainings through DVR, completing our 5 Year State Plan and an Employment First initiative just to name a few.
Of course, with each success there are things that we still need to do. We need to continue to educate our Legislators that individuals with disabilities need not be forgotten in all that they are doing. Just as there is a focus on jobs, so to do individuals with disabilities want to work at a competitive wage. We need to help create welcoming communities in each and every community throughout Wisconsin.
Then this week, in my career as an IRIS Consultant Mentor (http://www.wisconsin-iris.com/) (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct) we held our Regional meetings. In the morning we heard from Annette Downey of Community Living Services, Inc. Center for Self-Determination (http://centerforself-determination.com/). We heard success stories of individuals who have moved from State Institutions and are now living on their own in their Community. We saw a video of how these individuals once lived. I think that a lot of people do not realize but individuals with disabilities have the same real life quality outcomes and aspirations as the rest of us have; they want to live in a home of their own, being an active and contributing community member, maintaing existing relationships and making new friends, earning income and being healthy and safe.
In the afternoon we heard from Deb Wisniewski from InControl Wisconsin (http://www.incontrolwisconsin.org/) Deb spoke as a Fellow on Asset Based Community Development (ABCD)( http://www.abcdinstitute.org/). We learned about how every individual is good at something and is an asset in their community. We focused on what is present, not what is absent. We start by asking what can we do for ourselves, then we ask what do we need a little help and finally what do we need somebody else to do for us. These principles do not just apply to individuals with disabilities, but it applies to each and every one of us. I think the quote that I enjoyed the most from Deb’s presentation was “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive” Howard Thurman.
I think that the last 7 days has really driven home that I have found my passion in life. I will not let people tell me that “that is not possible” I will ask Why Not.
It was Gandhi who said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”