Common Ground in Communities

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. The Arcadia Institute can honestly say that the only thing that is constant about a day in the life of a Community Broker is "change". As challenging as that may sound, it falls right in line with how we can more authentically support the growth of persons we work with that just happen to have a disability. Conversely, we too are often transformed along the journey with others who exercise their right to want more than just a dream of increased quality of life.

Fortunately, the community of Kalamazoo has organizations that repeatedly experience similar roller coaster rides along their journey towards fulfilling their inclusive missions. A great example of an organization's willingness to expand and grow in areas of increased inclusion-as-a-way-of-life is the Boys and Girls Club of Kalamazoo. Historically, the Kalamazoo Chapter of the Boys and Girls Club lives out their commitment to include by investing in staff that train their own staff regularly about the value and matters of inclusion

One of our participants, Greg Daniel, had a desire to volunteer as an Associate Art Instructor with the after-school drop in program at the Douglass Community Center this past winter. Program Coordinator, Josh Campbell was extremely committed to engaging in exploratory conversations with myself, his staff and the participant. Josh expressed and modeled a sincere desire to make sure that this volunteer opportunity was safe, respectable, accommodating and all-around doable. From the very start, Josh and their staff partnered with all areas to be problem-solved, even down to the smallest detail of literally meeting Greg at his Metro bus in the dead of winter, to unload and load Greg and accompany him safely into the building each time.

Greg was consistently treated like an average volunteer as the program rolled out, but whenever my participant needed to adjust his availability due to transport, staffing or health concerns he was never made to feel bad about it when life smoothed out and he was able to resume without missing a beat.

Being able to connect Greg with an opportunity to express and share his passion, with an organization that is passionate about engaging youth in healthy, productive character-building, is one of a Community Broker's cha chings.... Everybody benefits when everyone connected to the program experiences persons with disabilities as part of the valuable fabric of life.

I will close with a direct comments from the participant himself. " It is important to teach kids to be able to think outside of the box. Using art as an alternative to choosing to not just be out on the streets. The life that they are used to doesn't need to be their life they chose to live in the future. Staff were very helpful and wanted very much to open their arms and open their minds."

As organizations like The Arcadia Institute along with The Boys and Girls Club open their arms and open their minds our community will continue to look more and more like the beloved community we strive to help build through The Arcadia Institute vehicle for change, Community Brokering.