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.
Larry is a stellar YEG citizen who has been working as co-coordinator of the CommuniTEA Infusion Project since August of 2017. CommuniTEA infusion is an award winning, social change initiative, that aims to break down social barriers amongst community members with and without disabilities. The tea van visits city events and neighborhoods, creating a pop up town square like atmosphere where people gather, chat, and share in conversation over a cup of iced tea. As co-coordinator, Larry plays an instrumental role in ensuring tea van operations run smoothly. He is the go-to person at events, leading set up, the serving of tea, and take down. What follows are Larry’s reflections on his experiences with the CommuniTEA Infusion Project, Citizenship, and Employment.
Why is work important to you?
In conversation with Larry it was apparent his job with the tea van means a great deal to him. He takes his work seriously and strives to offer the highest quality service possible. Larry discussed work as an important part of life as it enables him to provide for his family and makes him feel included in community:
“To have an income source coming back home, there, for the basic needs, there…work makes me feel included…included like part of…a group or the community”
What do you like about the work you do?
“It’s been a whole different experience…I’ve never done anything like it”
Larry also described enjoying the travelling aspect of his position. With the tea van he got to go all around the city, attending different events and festivals.
“Seeing different parts of the city…parts that I’m not familiar with…for example Emily Murphy Park, I didn’t know where that was before”
What have you learned while on the job?
Larry talked a lot about meeting new people as a part of the job. He described being nervous meeting new people at first but with time and many encounters meeting new people became more comfortable.
When asked this question, Larry fondly recalled some of the encounters with others he had. He told a story about people asking for lemonade and iced tea mixed “half and half” which he thought was funny. He also spoke about the pin making machine and learning how to make it work.
What do you think CommuniTEA has to offer the community?
Larry discussed the role the van plays in sparking conversation between people stating:
“[it can] start with say small conversation or small talk and with some people it may grow from there into a possibly new friendship”
Larry’s reflections remind us of the important role meaningful employment plays in an individual’s sense of community belonging. Contributing to community is a key component of engaged citizenship. As Larry’s story demonstrates, individuals with disabilities have many unique gifts and talents to offer their communities. We are proud to showcase Larry’s experience as one of many stories of engaged citizenship within Skills Society.
This story brought to you by:
Co-coordinator, CommuniTEA Infusion Project
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