For many of us, citizenship is something we take for granted. It can be defined in many ways, but at its core citizenship is our sense of value and belonging. This sense of citizenship doesn’t always extend to people with disabilities. That’s why Skills Society was formed – to provide people with disabilities with the same opportunities and choices, the same ability to share their gifts and talents, and the same sense of belonging that we all enjoy. Citizenship is what we strive for every day – and it encompasses the following:
Citizenship Highlight – Participation
Having meaningful things to do, and sharing your gifts and talents with others is an important part of citizenship. Brittany is a creative and talented artist who works across a wide range of mediums including visual arts, singing, writing, and theatre. Despite the circumstances of COVID-19, over the last year Brittany has continued to work hard on her craft. Brittany performed in this year’s Rising Sun Theatre virtual production titled Threads, and also had a poem published that she co-wrote with another artist – an accomplishment that brings her joy and pride! Zorg 2020 tells the story of an alien cat who visits Earth. Brittany has been writing and performing since she was young and loves imagining characters and “getting into character with the character”. Brittany is currently writing a fantasy novel titled Mystical Forests. Her imagination inspires her to write and visually create monsters, aliens, and fantasy creatures, which she shares are her specialty!
An excerpt from Zorg 2020, a poem by Brittany Leitheiser and Breanna Barrington:
The only difference I could gather
Didn’t really seem to matter.
It’s just one thing; I’ll tell you what.
Promise you’ll keep your lips shut.
Our homes are alike, I must confess.
It’s only a matter of dialect.
Us alien cats from ZORG don’t “Meow”
Instead we eek out a big “WOW.”
Zorg 2020 can be purchased through the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts
Brittany holding a copy of Zorg 2020
Citizenship Highlight – Relationships
Andrew & DJ’s Story
Sharing your life with others and having people in your life who care about you is an important part of citizenship. Andrew and DJ have been roommates for over 13 years and have formed a strong friendship. Both love music and have jam sessions, playing instruments together. Andrew and DJ also enjoy hanging out together in their backyard, soaking up the sun. This year, Andrew and DJ, together with their families, are planting vegetables in raised garden beds in their backyard. Andrew and DJ have plans to share their harvest with neighbours and their support team. By sharing with others, they hope to meet new neighbours and nurture connections with existing ones. Andrew and DJ’s story not only highlights a meaningful relationship between roommates and family, but also a creative way to build connections with neighbours!
Andrew and DJ next to their garden
Andrew tending the garden
Citizenship Highlight – Belonging
Belonging – feeling valued, respected, and an important part of something bigger than yourself – is an important part of citizenship. For Ariel, volunteering in the community is an important part of being an engaged citizen: “I love to care for people and help them out as much as I can”. For over 15 years, Ariel has been volunteering with two fire halls in the City, offering his skills and time helping the fire crews out with a variety of jobs around the fire hall. What Ariel values most about volunteering at the fire halls are the relationships he’s built with the crews. Enjoying spending time or sharing a meal together and the opportunity to get to know one another: “just being there and being part of the family”. Though COVID-19 has put volunteering at the fire hall on pause, Ariel and the crew continue to stay connected, through phone calls and visiting outdoors. Ariel’s story is a great example of engaged citizenship and belonging – through volunteering, Ariel generously shares his gifts, talents and time with the community and in return is a valued part of the fire hall.
Ariel holding a Fire Station 1 sweatshirt
Citizenship Highlight – Rights
Larry is an engaged citizen who participated as a core team member in the Future of Home: Inclusive Housing Solutions Lab digging deep into an emergent issue in our community – the right for people with developmental disabilities to have a place to call home. As Larry puts it, “it’s important to have a safe and stable home” and highlighted the importance of creating solutions with, not for, people: “Get their input from their experience through their lifetime. No two people are the same”. Larry was a valued member of the core team. He shared his experiences and ideas, voiced his concerns related to housing, and collaborated with others to design creative housing solutions. A kind and empathetic listener, when asked what he enjoyed most about participating in the lab he shared, “I enjoyed hearing everyone’s input about a variety of different subjects and learning from each other”. In the future Larry hopes to see more people having a safe and affordable home that brings them joy and is in a good community.
Larry and his fellow teammates at one of the Future of Home Lab workshops
Citizenship Highlight – Participation
An important part of citizenship is having opportunities to share your gifts and talents with others. Brandon is a friendly and kind guy who is passionate about all things technology. For over 7 years he has been managing his own business as a tech specialist supporting people with software installation and troubleshooting and solving technology issues. During the pandemic many people have had to develop tech skills and set up new digital tools as a way to stay connected to others. Brandon has been supporting the Skills community as a tech coach. In this role he supports people virtually or by phone answering questions to help build their tech know-how, set up new devices, and troubleshoot network or software problems. His skills, expertise and warm nature make him perfect for this role! When asked what he enjoys most about working as a tech coach Brandon replied: “I enjoy helping people with technology problems they have, and like helping people who aren’t as knowledgeable as me about technology.”
Brandon created the portrait above for the Teach Coach flyer
Citizenship Highlight – Relationships
Lisa & Michael’s Story
Relationships are an important part of citizenship – building and nurturing friendships as a way of sharing your life with others. As neighbours, Lisa and Michael have built a caring friendship with one another and enjoy spending time together talking, making art, playing games and sharing meals together. During COVID-19 they have gotten to know each other even more through conversation and often swap recipes. Lisa and Michael both shared enjoying and valuing having one other to talk to and genuinely listen. They are excited to continue growing their friendship.
“I am spending a lot of time talking with Lisa about many things. …The most important aspect of our relationship is that we do things together” Michael
Their story highlights the important support that can come from friendship. Having a friend to call on for company and support can go a long way in navigating challenging and uncertain times.
Lisa (pictured on the left) making a smoothie for Michael (pictured on the right), which he enjoyed!