Watch as Jerry Robinson shares his story of how he got out of Willowbrook State School. Andrew Oliver then shares about disability, the church, and Do For One.
“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
What’s the secret to living a long and healthy life? There’s a good chance it’s your social life. In a recent TED talk, Susan Pinker points out research held on tens of thousands of middle-aged people’s lifestyles to address the question, “What reduces your chances of dying the most?” This research was directed by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University.
The summary of the data was a top 10 list which included things like clean air, exercise, quit smoking, etc. Number 1 on that list was something called “social integration.” This means how much you interact with people throughout your day; from your family, friends to your neighbors or the baristas at your regular coffee shop. A close second on the list is your intimate relationships.
This is not only crucial for a long and healthy life, but also a more vibrant one. People in communities share common interests, resources, and connections. Networks richly assist its members, such as hearing new music, getting recommendations for an excellent doctor, lending books, and sharing ideas, for example.
As mentioned in the Circles of Support post, people with disabilities have relatively few relationships in their lives that are not paid to be there. In most cases, Human Service professionals far outweigh their other relationships. Community Circles understand that people with developmental disabilities simply do not have opportunity to connect and expand their network of support. Therefore, Community Circles are not insular. To the contrary, they exist to multiply connections and move outward, motivated by social integration and fostering close relationships.
For many, life is full of those moments that many of us would say are divinely orchestrated, others might say serendipitous. Being in the right place at the right time, where new friendships or opportunities are offered to us. When people’s knowledge and experiences are diverse, new ideas and possibilities become available to us. Community Circles pave the way for those surprising and fun moments to occur.
The purpose of the below is to dialogue with those who are already involved in a Community. If you have interest in visiting us and learning more click here
As mentioned before, Community Circle participants are made up of Advocates, Partners, family, friends, and likeminded people.
- Recruitment starts with an Advocate/Partner relationship and ensures that a person with developmental disabilities in is at the center of decision-making in the Community. The nature of this relationship; the skills, gifts, and personality will shape the Community as it grows.
- The third person that you need is a Host. This person may be someone the Advocate or Partner already knows and trusts. A Host is someone:
- with the gift of hospitality
- will open their home and inspire others to do the same
- a person who has an outstanding reputation and is influential in their community
- has a wide network of likeminded family or friends
You can then begin hosting simple gatherings such as potluck and game nights in order to start building relationships. Guests are invited by the Partner, Advocate, and Host in efforts of growing the number of participants in the Community Circle. Circles can grow up to 15 people or more.
In no particular order, these participants might include some or all of the following:
- The Partner’s Intimate Relationships
- The Advocate and Host’s most trusted relationships that are interested in the inclusion of people with disabilities
- Do for One staff assists in the recruitment of people with developmental disabilities in need of companionship or advocacy
- Support staff to Partners, this will at times be necessary for some with more significant support needs
- At times it might be necessary to reach outside your normal circles in efforts of building momentum and adding to greater diversity in your Circle. Places like your home church, mercy and justice minded organizations that help recruit volunteers, are examples that can help with this
Vetting and Requirements
- Our Info Sessions is the starting point and we ask all participants to attend.
- We ask all serious Community Circle participants to fill out a “Community Friend Profile” and background check. This helps us discern everyone’s involvement.
- In addition to potluck and game nights, gatherings to reflect, pray, and friendly visits to many of their friends with disabilities can take place for enriching their collective understanding of Do for One’s mission.
- In the next post, I will go into detail on how to discover your Communities’ assets and unique identity.
"The reason there will be no change is because the people who stand to lose from change have all the power. And the people who stand to gain from change have none of the power." - Machiavelli
Many of you are familiar with our community gatherings. Our hope at these gatherings is to heal divisions between class and factions of our city and to create opportunity for people of diverse identities to meet, relate, and experience moments of life together that will be remembered.
In a series of posts, I'd like to start introducing a concept that I think will help us realize the potential within our existing community gatherings and to deepen our existing Advocate/Partner relationships.
In the above quote, Machiavelli helps us to see why people and families affected disability feel isolated and stuck. People with disabilities usually only have a few people in their lives they can call on when they need help. In most cases, these people are professionals that are paid to be there. There are many reasons for this, including the person’s lack of opportunity for work, access to social or religious groups, or connections with people who share their interests. See our post on Circles of Support.
There is a chasm between two basic groups of people: those who are walking on "thick ice" and those who are walking on "thin ice." Initiating or joining a Community Circle is a great first step for you to make social change by being social.
What Are Community Circles?
Community Circles are self-designed collectives made up of Do For One participants. They are organized – based on location, or similar interests, for example – by Advocates, Partners, family, friends, and likeminded people. They focus their time, talents, and resources on connecting vulnerable persons with people who are ready, willing, and able to befriend and support them.
Community Circles are started by thoughtfully recruiting and assembling a balanced guest list of people with and without disabilities, this provides a safe, comfortable environment for networks to form and strengthen. Movie and game nights, karaoke nights, picnics, planning meetings, and special occasions such as birthday or graduation parties are some of their events. Community Circles determine the content, direction, and social character of their efforts, which is essential for their sustainability and efficacy. Community Circles exist within neighborhoods and are encouraged to in influence their community by inclusion.
Interested in visiting one? CLICK HERE to see where gatherings are held near you.
Stayed tuned for part two! We'll get into more specifics.
In a time where unspeakable tragedy dominates the news, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and even pessimistic about the future. I'm reminded of Fred Rogers' well-known advice, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."