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“...We are all capable and the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region has really helped to show me how capable I am..."

 

      I came to the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region first as a volunteer, and then as an employee, in 1995. I was just 21, then fresh out of College, and in search of my field-related employment. In retrospect, I was ignorant then, to the difficulties and discrimination I would face in finding meaningful, sustainable work – further complicated by physical accessibility issues and varying, wavering attitudes concerning disabilities within the workplace.

      My volunteer roles at the Centre during that time were diverse – public relations, writing, assisting with Peer Resource program activities, reception coverage – and in any and all areas I could. I also implemented the Centre’s first-ever Consumer newsletter, which I titled “The Participator.”

I began fulltime employment with ILCWR in January, 1996, in the Receptionist/Information & Referral position, working at the helm of the proverbial ship.

It was then that my life took that proverbial ‘different fork in the road’.

   Working with (and volunteering for) The Independent Living Centre encouraged me to ‘put down roots’ within the not-for-profit sector. My love for this sector began to grow.

I have now been working within the not-for-profit sector for 19 years, in both paid and voluntary capacities.  

    ILCWR, for me was a conduit of sorts. I was first able to experience – to live – life as a person with a disability – and it was one of the very first times I ever fully realized the impact of me – my place, and my responsibility in, and toward the disability community.  ILCWR was the first not-for-profit environment I had the opportunity to immerse myself in – and it brought me to the threshold of the wide-open door to the disability community.

    Opportunity was extended to me, but it was this immersion that brought my courage to the forefront, while igniting my drive and want – to expect and to create more of a life for myself – knowing that I was deserving, and also willing to work hard for more – and just to be able to live my life on my own terms.

     And as an individual with a disability, volunteering with ILCWR and having been given, and seeking out opportunities to support so many diverse groups, I view my own challenges from a different perspective – and always, as part of ‘a larger picture.’  

    My perspective on living life with a disability and being part of the disability community has never been hindered by the ‘us and them’ scenario (those with and those without disabilities being polarized), but rather, how we can better integrate, and work together to strengthen our communities and the individuals within them.

Volunteerism, I believe, is a necessary, fundamental key to community and societal integration and success. And it is also a responsibility.

Everyone has their challenges, and we are all more adept at overcoming these than any one of us might ever recognize, or credit ourselves for.

We are all capable and the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region has really helped to show me how capable I am. They have given me the ability to live an independent live and volunteering there has shown me how important it is to give back to the community.

 

 

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