Supporting the exploration of Citizenship & Disability
This area of Project Citizenship is a collection of photographs, thoughts and short stories from diverse people who care about citizenship and have been willing to share what they think supports it.
This Citizen Speak is brought to you by one of our community allies, RootEd. RootEd. is a local community social group aimed at creating meaningful social connections amongst community members. At RootEd. friendship is viewed as a key component of citizenship.
Barb and Chantal, have been with RootEd. since it’s inception three years ago, and are avid supporters of the group. The two of them have attended virtually every social. Having gotten to know Barb and Chantal over the past three years, we’ve witnessed their beautiful friendship and the great meaning it carries in their lives. What follows are their stories of friendship, community, and belonging.
Meet Chantal & Barb
Barb and Chantal are roommates and best friends; they call each other sisters. They have been living together for seventeen years. Both ladies were born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Beginnings of a Life Long Friendship
They met when Chantal was looking for an alternative living situation and Barb was looking for a new roommate. Barb had lived in their lovely 2-bedroom apartment for 6 months with a different roommate who had decided to move-out. Chantal had been on the waitlist for the apartment building for years! Barb, in conversation with her neighbor, learned that Chantal was looking for a roommate. Barb called Chantal and offered her the additional room in the apartment and the rest is history. They’ve been friends ever since!
Chantal remembers the first time looking around Barb’s place thinking it was so nice, comfortable, and affordable, she called her up and said “you have a new roommate, I’m moving in!” and Barb did a little happy dance. Chantal said in her old place no one interacted and there was no sense of community or neighbors. Chantal feels very lucky to have found Barb and their friendship
The Key Ingredients of Friendship
Both Barb and Chantal report that love, acceptance and communication are the ingredients to a strong friendship. In response to how you know if someone is a friend, Barb and Chantal replied:
“talking to them, doing things together, showing them you care, sometimes talking every couple hours.”
RootEd. in Community
Barb and Chantal are both active Edmontonians. Barb and Chantal are not currently able to work due to health concerns, but that doesn’t stop them from contributing to their community. They are active volunteers, offering their time at the Festival of Trees annually. This past Christmas, Chantal’s boyfriend, Doug, even joined her while volunteering at the Festival. Chantal has also been a weekly volunteer with the ACT Adult Leisure Senior Dance since 1991. Chantal is proud of the work she does there; manning the entrance table, taking tickets, and checking people off the guest list.
The Importance of Friendship
When we asked Barb about her favorite qualities in Chantal, she answered:
“how she lives every day, always has a smile on her face, even when she’s in pain, her smile is infectious, when I’m down she lifts me up and I do the same for her.”
When we asked Chantal about her favorite qualities in Barb she answered:
“love that we talk every night, even on the phone if we aren’t together; if something happens to me she is the first person I tell!”
Reminiscing, Barb recalled one of her favorite memories with Chantal…attending their first Oilers game together. Barb used to go to games back in the 80s when they would win a lot…Chantal had never been to a game before – they wore jerseys and had a blast!
Chantal shared one of her favorite memories with Barb…going to a Trapper’s baseball game. Barb had never been to a baseball game before, Chantal’s family always used to go to Trapper’s games. Chantal took Barb to a game, and they had so much fun.
We are grateful Chantal and Barb took the time to share their stories of friendship, community, and belonging. Their stories speak to the joy that comes from shared experiences and the importance of friendship.
Signed Kristin and Lindsay – Citizen Explorers & Leaders of RootEd.
Friendship, a piece of Citizenship
This Citizen Speak is brought to you by one of our community allies from RootEd, a local group aimed at facilitating meaningful connections amongst community members. RootEd hosts monthly socials at different locations around the city. We came to know Lauren and Nicole through these monthly meet-ups.
We met Lauren and Nicole in Lauren’s home. Together we talked about friendship, why it is important, and how it fits into citizenship.
Who are Lauren and Nicole?
Nicole and Lauren are active young members in their communities. Lauren is a soft-spoken, composed, and a creative university student with a passion for the performing arts. Nicole is a vibrant, passionate, and sociable young lady who takes pride in her work at The Organic Box. Together they are two peas in a pod -the best of friends.
Their Friendship Story…
Nicole and Lauren have known each other for 21 years. They first met when they were toddlers in a music group. For the years while they were in school they were not as close until they reconnected as teens in a musical theater group. Having enjoyed time together at musical theater, the girls decided to go to a movie where they really hit it off. With so many common interests—boy bands, The Flash, cheerleading and performing, it’s not hard to see how Lauren and Nicole have become the best of friends.
What makes a good friend?
Lauren stated: “Nicole is a good friend. I can always talk to her really about anything. My secrets and everything. I trust her, she makes me laugh”.
Nicole stated: “We always do this thing with our hands [shows us their secret handshake]”. “She’s open. She’s actually available and funny too. She always likes to smile. I always make her laugh which is good. I really like having her around because we actually celebrate together.”
“The open part is in our friendship, we are actually open about everything, and we talk about absolutely everything our feelings. We talk about boys the open part of it is by having her [tearing up] she’s two thumbs up!”
In our conversation together, it became clear both women valued their friendship and the trust they had with one another.
What are your goals and dreams for your friendship?
The women have big dreams for their friendship with goals of living together, traveling, and supporting one another through major life milestones.
Lauren reports: “We’ve become like sisters. I’m not sure where we’ll end up but I’m thinking that we can support each other in the choices we’ll make. I’d like to be either a writer or actor anything like that. I think Nicole would be a good roommate.”
Nicole reports: “Travelling together. The best places, Broadway, somewhere in New York because New York is the best place. Maybe even to France, Paris, and London…..”
Why does everybody need a friend?
Lauren replied: “People need to know that there is someone there that can catch you when you fall”
Nicole replied: “Trust. Happiness too. It’s joyful to have that person”
The women both expressed their belief that everyone needs and deserves a friend—someone you can relate to and share the ups and downs of life with.
Having gotten to know Lauren and Nicole over the past couple of months, it has become evident that their friendship is a big part of their citizenship. Through their friendship, they have found community, common understanding, and shared interests.
We would like to thank Lauren and Nicole for sharing their experiences with us. Read more about Lauren and Nicole in their individual stories: “Nicole—A Vibrant Community Member” and “Lauren—A Sister, Student, Daughter, and Friend”.
Signed Paige and Lynn—Citizen Explorers
Lauren met with us in her home. Together we talked about citizenship and belonging.
Who is Lauren?
Lauren is a sister, college student, daughter, and friend. She works part time at the Italian Centre Shop on 95th Street and is currently majoring in English at King’s College. This semester she is taking courses in social, dance, and history. Outside of school and work, Lauren volunteers at Festival Place, a theatre in her community. In her spare time, Lauren enjoys watching TV and movies (The Flash is one of her all-time favorites!), dancing, singing, bowling, and cheerleading.
What does belonging mean to you? In what communities do you belong?
“I would say definitely school. Sometimes we do like group discussions and that kind of stuff and I like to engage in conversation”.
“I would say at bowling. I get to hang out with some friends that have the same disability as me. I’ve always been on the same team, with me, Nicole, and Katie”
Read more about Lauren and her friend Nicole in their story—Someone to Catch you When you Fall: Friendship, A Piece of Citizenship. This Citizen Speak was brought to you by one of our community allies from RootEd. A local group aimed at facilitating meaningful connections amongst community members.
Signed Paige and Lynn -Citizen Explorers
Nicole met with us at her friend’s house. Together we talked about citizenship and belonging.
Who is Nicole?
Nicole is a vibrant, passionate young woman who takes great pride in her work at The Organic Box. She works at The Organic Box four days a week and takes her employment very seriously. She enjoys the variety her work offers. She has different roles in the mornings and afternoons. Also important to Nicole are her family and friends. She expressed the joy she gets from spending time with them and sharing common interests. Nicole shares her love of music, dance, and performing with the community through Zumba and cheerleading activities. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys keeping up with her favorite TV series The Flash.
What does belonging mean to you? In what communities do you belong?
“Mostly at work because I have friends there. We do potlucks and stuff too which is great.” Nicole enjoys the relationships she’s developed with her co-workers, visiting with them in the mornings, and participating in workplace celebrations such as staff work anniversaries and birthdays.
Read more about Nicole and her friend Lauren in their story—Someone to Catch you When you Fall: Friendship, A Piece of Citizenship. This Citizen Speak was brought to you by one of our community allies from RootEd. A local group aimed at facilitating meaningful connections amongst community members.
Signed Paige and Lynn -Citizen Explorers
Alice and Lisa, met us in a coffee shop in their neighbourhood. Together, we had a conversation about citizenship, relationships, and disability.
Alice is a mother and active community member. She enjoys going for walks and playing cards with friends and family. She discussed a strong desire to better her community through the creation of opportunities for people with and without disabilities to connect with one another.
Lisa is a vibrant young woman with a contagious laugh. She gave us an extensive list of things she likes to do including: hanging out with friends, listening to music, creating art, going to yoga, working in a community garden, going to work, and doing word searches. Through our conversation, we learned Lisa takes great pride in her roles as daughter and employee. She reported enjoying helping her mom around the house and recalled some fond memories from her previous job with Coffee News.
Alice and Lisa like to spend time in their community together. They expressed enjoying going to movies and concerts and shopping together. They were both particularly looking forward to the upcoming Celtic Thunder concert in October.
What does community mean to Alice and Lisa?
When asked what community means to them, they discussed being with others and sharing in common experiences.
In Alice’s words it means:
“Trying to get everybody involved. Help[ing] one another mow the grass, planting something, playing cards enjoy[ing] each other’s company, and going for walks. I wish they would do that in my area but we don’t have that.”
They identified their neighborhood as a community but reported missing a sense of belonging in that community.
When asked if she felt a part of community Alice said:
“No, but I wish I did. The community I’m moving into has all seniors. I feel left out ’cause I’m younger than them. I’d like to get connect with the community but it’s hard to get a hold of people. The community isn’t involved. They don’t make anything for young families and they should. No one does anything for anybody. [Other community members] don’t [say] what’s going on in the neighborhood.”
Alice expressed a need for all people to come together, to learn from each other:
“People without disabilities and with disabilities you can still do things together. We gotta make it easier for people to deal with [people with disabilities] and not get upset [by] it.”
What does disability mean to them?
To end our conversation, Alice shared what she wants others to know about disability:
“[We should] not fear it. Sure you gotta deal with it, but just be yourself. There are ways to deal with it and not to deal with it. See I have dyslexia and [Lisa] does too. But I don’t see myself as a disability. I just go out. I don’t let it get people down. You’re not a disability. You’re just yourself. If you got no arms, you got no legs, you can still do it.”
Why did Alice and Lisa want to be part of Project Citizenship?
Alice expressed a strong desire, for herself and her daughter, to be a part of Project Citizenship so they could share their experiences. When asked how, as a community, we could showcase and share the experiences of people with disabilities, Alice replied:
“Advertising, and if we can try and put it on TV somehow how to deal with it how people know if they got disabilities how to face it.”
We would like to express words of gratitude to Alice and Lisa for sharing small pieces of their stories’ with us.
Signed Kristin and Paige- Citizen Explorers
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.