Season’s Greetings: Hope for the New Year
By Trish Bowman, Inclusion Alberta CEO
Hope is a word we hear a lot lately. It reflects our deep desire to keep those we care about safe, feeling loved and resilient during a pandemic that seems endless. Over the last year and a half, it has been hard for some of us to hold onto hope and at time, we may have needed others to encourage us. Hope is like a lifeline, pulling us through life’s challenging moments.
Every day families come to us at Inclusion Alberta clinging to hope. Hope that their son or daughter will continue to be included in the regular classroom in their neighborhood school, hope that they will get the support they require at home so they can get some sleep when they have a child that requires oxygen overnight, hope someone will help them figure out how to realize a life of possibility for their son or daughter as they leave high school, rather than a life of isolation and loneliness. Children with developmental disabilities who hope for friends, young adults who want nothing more than a job, and older adults who dream of a home of their own. We see hundreds of individuals and families every year who refuse to, who can’t, give up on the dreams most of us take for granted: a life of inclusion, belonging, and possibilities. But sometimes holding onto hope can be hard, and it can’t be done alone. Inclusion Alberta, they will tell you, is the lifeline that sustains their hope.
The dreams of people with developmental disabilities and their families are hard fought. They aren’t realized easily. In Alberta, there are 1000’s of children and adults on waiting lists for supports and services. Imagine being told you’ll have to wait, perhaps for years – for the chance to get a job, for the support you need to participate in community life, for support at home for a child who is medically fragile, or for physical or speech therapy at a critical phase of your child’s development. This can lead to hope being lost as lives are put on hold, diminished and sometimes lost. This is the reality for far too many children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families.
When these families find Inclusion Alberta, our most important work can be sustaining or renewing their hope. Our advocates and family resource centre staff work individually with hundreds of families to navigate complex systems whose first response is often to deny families needed supports or place them on interminable waiting lists. Our inclusive education consultants assist families and schools across the province to realize the promise of inclusion. Our inclusive post-secondary partnerships, now expanded to 15 post-secondary institutions, provide young adults with developmental disabilities the opportunity to pursue their goals and interests, gain life enriching experiences and develop friendships and connections that can be life-defining. Our Rotary Employment Partnership continues to generate employment, even during the pandemic, with over 660 jobs being created to-date. All of what we do is dedicated to sustaining hope while realizing lives of meaning and belonging.
I ask that today and into 2022, you be a source of hope to your family, loved ones and to your community. My hope is that the new year will deepen your commitment to the inclusion movement, so that we are closer to one day realizing the dream of meaningful family life, community inclusion and a life of possibility for all individuals with developmental disabilities.
On behalf of the Board and staff of Inclusion Alberta, we wish you and your family all the best this holiday season and into the New Year.
-Trish Bowman, Inclusion Alberta CEO