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Astonished! 2017 Summer Literacy Summer Students

We are happy to welcome Jill Dempsey and Alix Norum, our 2017 summer students in the A! Summer Literacy program.

Jill Dempsey is going into her second year of Arts Education at the University of Regina, with a concentration in visual arts. However, this will be her sixth year in post secondary. She completed a general studies diploma in Psychology and Sociology from, Lethbridge College. Jill was born in Regina then moved to Lethbridge, Alberta. She hopes to  one day be an Art Therapist! To learn more about Jill…..

I have a passion to help people, including myself, learn and enjoy learning. I think this is a fantastic opportunity for me and for A! Summer Literacy Students to be challenged and encouraged to succeed. I hope to become an art therapist and this is a chance for me to to put some theory into practice. I want to become more aware of the Ability in DisAbility. To every endeavour I bring my spunk.” (Jill Dempsey)

Alix Norum is going into her fourth year of Therapeutic Recreation in the Kinesiology faculty. She spent the past two summers at Camp Easter Seal as a camp counsellor and program counsellor and she is very excited to be the chapter president for Best Buddies at the University of Regina for the 2017-2018 school year. She is originally from Tisdale and enjoys spending her free time at her cabin at Greenwater Lake Provincial Park both in the summer and winter. To learn more about Alix ………

“I am excited to get to know the A! Summer Literacy Students. I look forward to learning about their hopes and dreams, and supporting them in achieving their literacy goals. I like trying new things. I bring my patience, listening skills, and my enthusiasm, and look forward to working with the Core Members of Astonished, the program coordinator, and varying volunteers.” (Alix Norum)

Welcome Jill and Alix.

Thank you to the Saskatchewan Community Initiatives Fund and to HRSDC Canada Summer Job granting program for their support of the A! Summer Literacy program.

PHOTO: Jill Dempsey and Alix Norum

Claiming Full Citizenship

The international conference, Claiming Full Citizenship, October 15-17, 2015 in Vancouver, BC, focused on self determination, personalization, and individualized funding. Rhea Boysen (A! Interim Manager) and I (Brenda MacLauchlan, A! Communications Coordinator and Parent) represented Astonished! at the conference and presented one of the sessions.

How do you summarize the experience of an international conference with 550 participants from regions as diverse as South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Finland, the United States of America, and Canada? Rhea and I (Brenda) are each writing blog posts about this conference that will give you some ‘snap shots’ of our experience.

The stated learning objectives were:

  • Evaluate the progress in achieving the vision set out in the Seattle 2000 Declaration on Self Determination and Individualized Funding
  • Share lessons learned on the implementation of self-determination, personalization, individualized funding and supported decision making
  • Promote cross national, cross cultural and cross sector dialogue
  • Share best practices
  • Support the realization of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities through promoting the effective global implementation of self-determination, personalization and individualized funding
  • Create a roadmap for the effective implementation of self-determination, personalization, individualized funding and supported decision making
  • Foster cooperative networks across jurisdictions, sectors and interests that will continue after the conference

Snap shot 1-The conference took place in a large, busy, downtown hotel in Vancouver. I was rather overwhelmed by the crowds. Within fifteen minutes of arriving at the conference I was engaged in a conversation with June Arthy and Bronwyn Moloney from Queenland Australia. They came to the conference to tell people their story about people labelled ‘Too Challenging’ or ‘Too Complex’ regaining their place in community. June (I guessed she was in her sixth decade) told me she had lived almost all of her life in an institution for people with intellectual disAbilities. She was delighted to tell me, with the support of a local not-for profit, she has been living in her own home for the last decade. I was inspired and no longer overwhelmed.

Snap shot 2 –The big attraction for me in attending this conference was to learn more about how Individualized Funding is managed in other places. Individualized Funding refers to direct funding to people with disAbilities so they can purchase services according to their needs. As a parent and as a member of Astonished! I have known firsthand the challenges of Individualized Funding in Saskatchewan. I hope we might learn from others like: Manitoba’s In the Company of Friends, a single window to access services, rather than being separated into service categories by diagnosis as we are in Saskatchewan; and Ontario’s Families for a Secure Future and the Ontario Independent Facilitation Network ,independent facilitators that assist individuals with the Individualized Funding process.

Snap shot 3 – This was the first ever international conference that brought together people living with disAbilities and people living with dementia, and families, professional support people, and academics from both of these communities. At first I wondered about the wisdom of putting together disAbility and dementia but I found it broadened the focus and helped us to be more aware of service gaps and attitudinal challenges.

Moving Chairs … still the same old shoes

Ruth Blaser writes…..After six years in my role as Co-Chair and then Chair of the Astonished! Board of Connectors I am thrilled to announce that, as of the AGM 2015, Dr. Brenda Rossow-Kimball is our new Chair of the Astonished! Board.

I am moving to the position of Past-Chair (for one year) with responsibility for Donor Relations and Major Gifts.

I have been reading again, Lynn Twist’s book The Soul of Money. For more than 40 years, Lynne Twist has been a recognized global visionary committed to alleviating poverty and hunger and supporting social justice and environmental sustainability.

She says …

“I see fund-raising as Sacred Work. It is the privilege of facilitating the allocation of the world’s resources away from fear and toward that which we love. Philanthropy is not the accumulation of wealth, rather the word comes from the root meaning …. Love of human kind.”

Astonished! is about being and becoming inclusive community. It’s about creating opportunities based on people’s strengths, dreams and needs. It’s about self-determination, personalization and full citizenship. It’s about creating and sustaining organizations structures and governance that support planting these visions and core value in our lives, relationships and community, and more!

I am a lucky woman to be part of the Astonished! community, still with the same old shoes and now in a different chair.