How would you define “Engaged Citizenship?
“Engaged citizenship is the coming together of community members to create and promote belonging, inclusion and meaningful connections.”
Why is being an engaged citizen valuable to our community?
“It is important because people are social beings. In a sense, we have to find our tribes. If there is no engaged citizenship within a community you get a situation where everyone is a hermit. You come in and out of the house but you don’t really know your neighbours and in those times of need, there is no one to go to for support. People are always going to need help from each other one way or another. It is those meaningful connections that are going to shine through during those times when you need someone.”
What has contributed to/who has inspired you to work in this field of social service?
“My inspiration definitely comes from the individuals that I have had the pleasure to support over the years. I am lucky to have spent a lot of time working at different agencies and organizations with children and after coming to Skills, I now support adults. With each position and each individual, I have learned something different. The individuals I support keep me going. Every day I look forward to coming into work, brainstorming with awesome like-minded coworkers and doing everything in our power to promote inclusiveness, meaningful connections and supporting people to reach their goals. Being a part of someone’s successes, no matter how big or small will always be one of the coolest feelings in the world.”
How can we make our communities more accessible to with people with disabilities?
“Edmonton could improve its transportation system. DATS serves a purpose, but it is not a well-oiled system. Transportation is a barrier for a lot of the individuals we support. I constantly hear from individuals about missed opportunities because of the lack of transportation. Unfortunately, the combination of our transportation system and the urban sprawl in Edmonton has deteriorated accessibility to a lot of things in the city. Even transportation for people without disabilities can be horrible. I think there also needs to be a drive to create more spaces that are more welcoming for everyone.”
If you could have been told one thing that you were not told when you were a teenager, what would you like to have heard?
“Looking back, I think I heard a lot of things that are pretty relevant now. Something that has kinda stuck with me is that people are always going to be judgemental no matter what situation you are in or what person you are. Someone is going to judge you for something. I think now being an adult I have kinda checked that idea at the door. Definitely, when I was a teenager I would try to impress people or do something that I felt would represent the clique that I belonged in. Now I don’t care. It is up to you to decide how you are going to let other people’s judgements affect you.”
If you had one hour of extra free time, how would you use it?
“I would use it to practice what I preach more. I’m definitely not an active member of my new community. In my old community where I grew up, I knew all my neighbours. We would have bonfires and block parties and everyone would come. There was always a sense of security that I miss having now that I live in my new community. It was like have our own little security system. I would use that extra hour to pursue my interests and engage myself more. I would spend more time with my family, build relationships within my community, and get outside more.”
Emily Brandon is a Coordinator of Community Supports Outreach at Skills Society. She has spent over two years at Skills Society working with individuals that have inspired her to do the work she does. She is passionate about her position and loves horses. Emily currently spends her free time planning her fall wedding, exercising, hanging out with her friends and family, and (of course) watching Netflix.
Ps. She also thinks her family and friends are pretty cool.