The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Entries for April 2011

Community of Belonging Stars

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that we recently held the second annual Building a Community of Belonging Forum. The purpose of the Forum is to bring the community together and discuss ways we can make Kalamazoo better. We know that sometimes it’s one person at a time!

The Arcadia Institute feels that Kalamazoo has a leadership role in this movement and is an example to communities around the nation. We also feel that it’s because of the people who live here that we’re able to say that.

Do you know someone working to make our community one where all people belong? We want to hear about them so we can recognize their efforts!

We’re looking for people who…

-Do their best to make everyone feel welcome.

-Take the time to get to really get to know the people around them.

-Set an example for others with their attitude and actions.

We want to share their stories in future blog articles, as an example to all who read and a reminder to keep up the great work!

To share someone’s story with us, please fill out the form here. We’ll be collecting responses until May 10th, so please take the time to recognize the people making a difference in the Kalamazoo community!

The New Guy In Town – No More

Last fall, we met Saleem and he was fairly new to Kalamazoo. He had grown up on the east side of Michigan where he had lots of friends, a job he enjoyed and mentored youth at a school. He moved here to live with his brother who is a student at Western Michigan University. Also, the rest of his family lives in Southwest Michigan and he needed to be closer to them for a variety of reasons.

Soon after Saleem moved here he found a job, but he really missed the mentoring work he had done as well as making new friends. He was also interested in an exercise program. So we met Saleem and his brother at the Maple St. YMCA for a tour.

During the tour, we saw Chris Broadbent, the Y Youth Program Director, and introduced TJ. A light bulb seemed to go off above everyone’s heads as we realized that Saleem could volunteer for the after school youth program. What a wonderful way for him to mentor youth and be with young adults his age.

Saleem is now a valuable part of the YMCA after school youth program. He helps build snow forts, plays basketball, helps with homework and is a friend. He is no longer the new guy in town – he is part of our community.

It’s Time To Plan for Summer!

Believe it or not, summer is just around the corner and most summer programs and camps are taking registrations! Some programs and camps are already filling up!

We are often asked by parents or care givers, “How do I choose a camp for my child?” This question can be particularly challenging if your child has a disability and will be trying a new program for the first time. Our response is to look at this list of talents or interests your child may have and go from there.

Does my child enjoy:

Visual arts
Music
Dance/theater
Science
Nature
Math
Reading
Writing
Sports
Games

Once you know what your child is interested in trying, answer the question, “What kinds of support will my child need to be successful in a program?” Does your child need to have accessible facilities, help with medication, support for behavior challenges, communication devices, etc.

Most of the summer camps and programs that we have worked with have staff committed to including all children. Their registration forms ask about the support children need no matter what the situation. Camp directors will contact parents to learn more about a child’s needs and offer an opportunity for families to visit. Often arrangements can be made to meet camp counselors ahead of time.

Set your summer up for success and contact The Arcadia Institute if you have questions or need support to make your child’s summer fun!

Everyone Has A Voice

Sometimes when we’re responsible for someone, it’s easy to get caught up in what we need to do for them. We forget what they can do for us.

Last Sunday we experienced several reminders of how people with disabilities can make valuable contributions to their community. As part of a fund raising event for Urban Blend Coffee House, two people sang, a third person danced, and a fourth person displayed some of his drawings.

This event provided a great illustration of individuals, and The Arcadia Institute, taking responsibility for others in our community. Giving Urban Blend our support runs contrary to the usual story we hear about people with disabilities, and nonprofit organizations, asking the community to support them.

Making contributions to others is one of the key outcomes of our Community Participation Initiative. Our efforts have resulted in close to $1000 in contributions that will help Urban Blend open their doors in the near future.

The event also illustrated our commitment to the principle of diversity. The fifty-plus people who attended were a good mix of people from different walks of life; from the Northside and people from other parts of the community.

To carry out our mission of supporting people with disabilities to participate fully in community life, The Arcadia Institute will continue to assume responsibility for building a strong community for all people. In a community where all people belong, all have a voice and all make contributions.