There is more to life than work!
We have all had the Monday morning chat by the proverbial water cooler, “How was your weekend?”, “What did you do?” we ask our friends and co-workers. Shared stories of soccer games, dinners out with friends, or the occasional concert, permeate the conversations, while pleasantries and stories of lively weekends, are exchanged. But, often is the case for people with developmental disabilities, when asked the aforementioned questions, the stories don’t come. The reason is simple. Often, people with disabilities are separated, isolated and marginalized in society; and with that marginalization, the stories of nights out with friends, the new movie we just saw, or the restaurant we finally got to try, don’t come.
But gone are the days of creating alternate environments and events that isolate people with disabilities, as if they can’t be in the world with the rest of us. While people with disabilities may need a little extra support to do the things they want to do, they shouldn’t be isolated from the world they live in. That is where Community Engagement comes in.
Community Engagement is the name of a service funded within Virginia to help people get out and enjoy life.
While The Arc of Southside has begun supporting people with developmental disabilities to obtain and maintain employment in the community, we haven’t forgotten that there is more to life than work! How we spend our time outside of work varies for all of us. Some of us revel in the chance to hear the music of our favorite band, others jump at the chance to attend an old movie marathon at our local theatre, and others may feel the call of the outdoors for sports and athletic events. This natural desire to live a full life is why we developed a new service called Community Engagement. Simply put, Community Engagement means helping people to access and enjoy the things they love, the things that bring them closer to their friends and the things that they value.
The program is offered seven days a week, providing staffing support for people to do the things they choose, when they choose. This may mean providing transportation, exploring new experiences, helping to build connections and relationships with others who enjoy the same things, or any other need. Leisure activities and interests vary widely from swimming, playing basketball at the YMCA, volunteering at God’s Storehouse, going to movies, museums, science centers, baseball games, art classes, concerts, and fairs and festivals. Whatever the interest, staff are available to help people to do the things they enjoy.
The Arc of Southside’s Community Engagement program provides the support for people to go out and live their lives, to live “A Life Like Yours”, and to create their own stories to share around the water cooler.