Christy Courtney of The Arc of Western Wayne County shares her experiences with starting The Community Participation Initiative in their community. Not too long ago, I first learned about The Community Participation Initiative through The Arcadia Institute from their wonderful video. The difference that it was making in people’s lives was remarkable and intriguing. Shortly after seeing that video, I learned that our Arc chapter, The Arc of Western Wayne County, along with The Arc of Kent County in Grand Rapids, would be receiving a grant from Walmart to bring the Community Participation Initiative to our respective areas. Attending the Building a Community of Belonging forum in Kalamazoo in March of 2010 furthered my excitement about the Initiative and the possibilities it held.
Now we are working hard to get things up and running in Wayne County. I am working with 6 people with very differing interests, everything from swimming and martial arts to Civil War Reenactments and volunteering with animals. I love meeting with individuals and talking to them about what they want to do. Making a choice seems like such a simple task to most people, but so many people with disabilities are not given the opportunity to make choices. The parents have clear ideas in their minds of what activities their children are interested in, and I love when the individual chooses something their parents would never expect. I love when they assert themselves and feel empowered in making their own choice.
While the Community Participation Initiative is still new in Wayne County, it is quite exciting. I am looking forward to meeting new people and helping them increase their sense of belonging in their communities and empower themselves by making choices. It seems the possibilities are endless.