Thursday, August 18, 2016

Citizenship: The opportunity to serve a greater purpose

For the last few years, Heritage Christian has focused on the idea of citizenship -- the idea of honoring and respecting the rights and responsibilities that we all have. We've invited Anna Skinner, associate director of day programs in the Buffalo area, to share her thoughts. Anna...

I continue to try and wrap my head around the definition of citizenship and how it applies to our everyday life. I’ve also stepped outside of looking at it from a personal perspective and have tried applying it to a person who may have an intellectual disability. My outcome...there is no difference.

Citizenship applies to all people: In my eyes the definition is very complex but at the same time can be looked at as very simple. This involves building connections with people who have a common purpose and interest. It's a give-and-take relationship and for most people being an engaged citizen provides a strong sense of self worth, belonging and contribution.

A big question is, "How do we welcome people as equals?" This too can be very complex or looked at with a very simple answer: Be the person that welcomes people with open arms. Provide your time, talent and treasures and allow people to share theirs as well.

Think back to when you were finally able to get a job. The thought of earning your own money and having the freedom to spend it on whatever you wanted was awesome! The scary part of this journey was not having the experience, which is what we face in every step that we take in life. Experience helps you gain knowledge and skills. When people have the opportunity to gain experience and are exposed to new things this will ultimately build up our community and provide others with the opportunity to serve a greater purpose in life.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Relationships: Our most important work

By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

"The ultimate success of a service system depends upon its ability to help people maintain and develop positive, enduring, freely chosen relationships."- John O'Brien

To someone who is not familiar with companionship, loneliness can be the norm -- permanent and inevitable. Loneliness and a disconnectedness of relationship with others creates proven changes within our chemical make up as a human being, literally depriving our brain of the hormone that stimulates happiness. This isn't just an extreme phenomenon noted in those who live in isolation. Many who exist within the presence of others can still be absent connectedness and relationship. They can still be deprived of the happiness and fulfillment that comes only through meaningful interaction with others.

Loneliness hampers our day-to-day ability no matter our starting point. Think of a time when you faced a challenge and didn't have others around you whom you trusted for council, people of your choosing, not people chosen for you. Our world becomes even more disorienting when we can't seek direction through the support or challenge of others we trust. We might even find that faced with loneliness day in and day out we become anxious and depressed.

Within the human support industry we must be cautious, loneliness can still lurk in the halls of busy programs full of activity. As a matter of fact, loneliness could even be more prevalent in busy environments. Now consider those you may support: If they are shy or quiet, if they communicate in ways less traditional, if a physical limitation makes them a bit more dependent on others to initiate a social exchange, chances are they could be easily overlooked. We might zip around busying ourselves with other day-to-day supports but completely miss supporting the foundational need for connectedness and personal relationships. I know looking back, I have made that mistake time and time again.

Our most important work must be to offer and nurture personal relationships. Relationships that endure beyond shift change, weekends and staff turnover.