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“Freedom”: Patrick’s Story

I was living in an approved home before COR. I had a friend that lived in COR and I started hanging out with him more and more. I stayed for sleepovers and his friends got to know me a little bit. He wanted me to move to COR… I guess he suggested it to somebody!

All my stuff was in boxes and bags It felt good to load it in. It felt like freedom

We had some meetings and then Andrew and Jim showed up one day with a U-Haul truck. All my stuff was in boxes and bags. It felt good to load it in. It felt like freedom. I threw everything in there. I came to the house, unpacked the U-Haul and there were lots of people helping me out. I didn’t sleep that night. It was a new environment for me and it took me a while to fall asleep the first couple of nights. Once I felt more comfortable it started to feel like home. I had things given to me for my apartment. On my birthday I was given things that I basically wanted. It was sort of weird at first. I had birthday parties before, but I never got things that I needed. My friends all bought me a Keurig for Christmas this year!

I’m going to a class that helps me deal with my anger, my anxiety, stuff like that. Some days I don’t really feel the greatest… and some days it could be like… I don’t know its kind of an up & down thing for me. Some days are tougher than others. That’s why I’m going to a class. I know that people in COR aren’t judging me or anything and that they are there to listen not scold you. They are there to help, they don’t say “wow that’s a dumb question to ask”, they just listen and try to help. When I moved in I needed somebody to talk to and I had a friend who would sit and listen, help me out and talk with me. It made me feel more comfortable because I know there is always someone to talk to if I need to. I get to go places like the bar, camping trips, hanging out with my friends. There’s not really a curfew. Your friends treat you like an adult, and if there’s a problem we sort of talk it out and work through it.

My friends helped me find a job. I work at Sasktel right on 1st Avenue and Broad Street, not too far from the COR office. I do lots of different things. I sometimes work in the warehouse, I clean 2701’s and 3801’s, just different modems. I sometimes clean ONT’s. It feels good to have a job. I’m not isolating myself because now I actually have a job where I’m responsible for getting up and getting to work on time. I was sort of nervous when I started. I was nervous to ask questions on my first day, but when I got more comfortable I sort of came out of my shell. When I’m on my own I have a thing called Facetime. My friends Facebook, Facetime, text me to make sure I’m okay and stuff like that.

I really like hanging out with people from COR. Going to BBQ’s, hanging out, playing football, just hanging out. There’s one thing that I have learned from that. I don’t look at their disabilities, I look at them as a person. I go to the dances and I have a friend that has MS, but I don’t look at her as MS. I just look at her as just one of my friends I can hang out with and laugh, do stuff with.

What is cor to you?

[What is COR all about?]

People caring about other people, people who are willing to listen, talk to you and make sure you’re alright. They are basically there for caring. COR has a website with lots of videos. Everyone is welcome here and everyone is equal. You should check it out. COR is an awesome place to live.

 

– Patrick

We All Learn From Each Other

My most memorable time at COR has to be one of my more challenging days. We had just gotten back from a rough time at a softball game. The person I was supporting made a choice and ended up having to deal with some of the repercussions. When we got back home we had a really great heart to heart moment together. We talked and had a moment of learning together about what happened and why. I feel like it’s moments like these that I get up for everyday.

To go through life one step at a time and learn something valuable with every step we take

To go through life one step at a time and learn something valuable with every step we take. COR is an amazing place for everyone to come and learn. It’s not only the people we support that learn, but every person I have spoken to is truly impacted by the people we support in one way or another. We all learn from each other and its alright to make mistakes, as long as we pick ourselves up and are ready to try again.

Matt

COR Support

The Caring Moment

In the beginning we must always be in the moment with two bits of knowledge focused on giving a feeling of being safe and loved. We should avoid lengthy case histories and cleanly typed plans. If need be, do these requirements. However, our task is to be in the moment; it is not to change anyone’s behavior, but to teach the person to feel safe with us and loved by us.

The present is a series of moments that tumble into the future. Yet, we should not worry about the future, only the present moment. The here-and-now becomes the future with each ticking second. Our encounters transpire in the moment and then transform the next moment.

The-joy-is-in-the-moments

Whether a mother, father, grandparent, or a person whom we are supporting, the most important variable is the moment, not the future, not a projected plan with outcomes, not behavioral change. No, it is our being present in this very moment and all the person sees, hears, touches, and feels in this mutual coming together. It is the tiniest amount of time, perhaps two or three seconds. Then, these moments are linked together with other moments and it is these moments that become new moments; it is the evolving chain of moments that creates our moral memory in us as well as a memory in the other person.

Caregiving’s simplification involves teaching caregivers to be in the moment:

  • In bad moments this equates with forgiveness rather than control;
  • In all the good moments this involves a series of accidental and intentional encounters throughout the day focused on safe and loved;
  • The accidental encounters are merely brief moments of passing by and encompass a wave, a wink, a smile, a name, a thumbs up, maybe a hug if there is time, a whispering of “You are so good.”
  • The intentional encounters are a bit more planned and involve a chunk of caregiving time—from a minute or two or a half hour or more. The time depends. It should be structured in the day with the only purpose being to give a memory that the person is safe when with us.
  • The key is to stay in the moment. Joy is found in the moment.

Our task is simple, just being in the moment with the gift of helping the person to feel safe and loved:

  • Not a moment before,
  • Not a moment after,
  • Just in the now.”

-John J. McGee, PhD

Mentoring a Spirit of Gentleness

“Mentoring is a way to help teach others about gentle care giving, to enter into terrifying spaces and teach others to feel safe and loved.” Mentoring is an approach to do this. It is a way to share with others a spirit of gentleness and justice.

A mentors role is to define the empty and sometimes violent spaces that exist between caregivers and marginalized individuals in institutions, shelters, homes, prisons, nursing homes, schools and wherever we happen to serve. These places have to be filled up with the caregivers’ laces of affection–their loving touch, warm words, and kind gazes. Caregivers need to stop and reflect on the formation of companionship and community and the role of helping individuals feel safe, engaged, loved and loving. From this foundation, caregivers can then create communities of caring. Mentoring is a process for teaching caregivers to establish companionship and community.

Mentoring is a way to teach others

Mentoring is an ever-deepening task that calls for the development of trust among caregivers and the formation of a sense of companionship and community. This trust starts by the Mentor entering into the caregivers’ space with a deep sense of humility and justice and helping each caregiver feel safe and respected. It is the informal coming together of the Mentor and caregiver around the kitchen table and the sharing of the meaning of companionship and community. It is working together and finding ways to teach marginalized people these feelings.”

-John McGee

Authenticating Life

Perhaps you are like me and occasionally enjoy looking at at a piece of art. Whether it is the color, systematic brush strokes and blending or perhaps it is the stylistic nature of the painting. To me art speaks volumes. I love admiring, analyzing and relishing in the beauty of the canvas–for some, admiration isn’t enough.

In 1996, Britain “Ripper” (not Jack the Ripper) emerged from the smoke as the world’s greatest art thief. It was soon found out that the ‘Ripper’ had been a local gardener and golf course keeper whose name was Mr. Bellwood. The first time this man was arrested, the police officers stormed his house to find a typical British dwelling; His wife Susan and their daughter were sitting in their living room having a cup of tea. At first the police feared they had the wrong man as Bellwood’s house had the appearance of being a middle-class home; it wasn’t until they began tearing down Mr. Bellwood’s walls that they found hidden away a gallery consisting of nearly 1,000 pieces of world history and art dating back to the 15th and 16th century. For obvious reasons he was arrested; but was released a mere two and a half years later on having good behavior. Since his release Bellwood has continued his thievery, taking into his possession over one-hundred-million pounds worth of history artifacts and art. It is now suggested that Mr. Bellwood has fled from England and is living overseas and working in the art world.

As soon art began to go missing, duplicates began to appear–however they were falsified documents and had to be authenticated. I don’t know about you, but authenticating something doesn’t sound like and easy job: it takes time, meticulous effort and observation.

When something is authenticated it is deemed, true, genuine, and ‘original to design and purpose’. While some people may heartily disagree with me, I suggest that authenticity in our world is an uncommon trait. Just like Mr. Bellwood, we as people so often portray ourselves as something that we are not or because of our historical pasts, feel unable to live authentically; but this is what our world needs! When you wake up in the morning, and leave your house people should be able to look at your life and be astonished by the courage and boldness that you have to live as you are. This doesn’t mean that we don’t learn from each other: in fact I am convinced that a life that stops learning is a life that stops living — similarly if we can’t live authentically before those who encompass our daily lives, I would ask if we are then truly living.

Authenticity flows beyond ourselves and into our family lives, our relationships and into our places of work. For those who choose to strive to live authentically it fosters a community that births life: a safe place where people are challenged, supported and offered an invitation into true relationship. This needs to become our new status quo. As I sign-off for now I leave you with a snippet from John McGee, who encourages us to live authentically before the people we serve: allowing our own story and personality to penetrate our own hearts and the hearts of those we serve.

“Unconditional love has to be expressed in our very being. Our presence has to evoke a peace like a single glimpse of the sun does in the midst of a storm. Our touch, words, and eyes have to be like a gentle breeze that calms the storm of fear and meaninglessness that is always lingering on the horizon. We must be authentic. How we use these has to reflect our own life-story and personality.” – John McGee

Ben Raine,

Director of Culture and Mentorship

Reverse Effects

“We keep trying to establish feelings of companionship and forming community among those who are marginalized. Yet, we struggle to create a sense of connectedness in a culture that demands independence and self-reliance. We listen to newscasts that announce this. We hear newscasts tell us the strong must control the weak. We read newspaper stories that trumpet the glory of the self. These cultural attitudes become part of our care giving. We have been trained to seek compliance and control. We demand that those whom we serve choose what is right and good when they do not trust us, in fact, often fear us. We live in a world that places the individual above the community.

As care givers, we have to reverse this trend and begin to question what the other needs — to feel safe with us and loved by us. A psychology of interdependence assumes that we find ourselves in others and in the strength of our connectedness to others. It is the foundation of who we are and what we are becoming. It leads us to develop a sense of companionship with those who distance themselves from us. We have to move from a culture of self-reliance to one of human connectedness and from a culture of self to one of otherness. As we do this, we are slowly moving toward the formation of community where we will feel collectively safe, loved, loving and engaged.

Interdependence is based on our shared values — the wholeness and inherent goodness of each person in spite of violent behavior and the thirst that we all have for a feeling of being one-with-one-another in spite of paradoxical behaviors that push others away. These values are difficult to maintain, but are necessary if we are to help those who cling onto the slippery edge of family and community life.”

John McGee,
Mending Broken Hearts: Companionship and Community

It’s Time To BULK-UP Your Shoulders

I am a firm believer that exercise is a necessary evil.

If I could get away with never working out I would be an incredibly happy man! However, there is something strange that began happening to me once I graduated high school; my ‘average size’ frame began morphing into something that resembled the shape of a Teletubby. What was described to me as the ‘freshmen fifteen’, in reality became the freshman thirty-five: I had lost control!

Instead of crossing my fingers and wishing for the weight to miraculously dissolve, I made the hard choice to eat better and begin working out. At first going to the gym was incredibly intimidating; but with every time I kept my commitment, it became easier and more comfortable. Once again I began noticing changes. I felt healthier, stronger and my shoulders became more defined.

Shoulder’s aren’t typically something that you wake up thinking about: unless you are an Olympic body-builder and yet my post today focuses our attention on this idea: Do not be dismayed, this is a challenge that runs significantly deeper than the physical. I believe that we as living and breathing people need to continually ask ourselves, ‘what am I able to bear and what is my breaking point?’ This question comes to mind after weeks and months of dwelling on the question “whose responsibility is it?” Particularly thinking about the disability sector and the desire on COR’s behalf to be leaders within our community by embracing Gentle Teaching—and challenging the status-quo.

Whose responsibility is it when the police are called to a house because of a yelling match between roommates? Whose responsibility is it when a customer in line at the grocery store glares cruelly at the person we support, and utters comments under their breath? Whose responsibility is it to put the house together after an escalation that resulted in property damage? I’ll stop here, but please don’t think that this is a compulsive list—No! It can entail anything and everything that falls within a grey area, including care for those that we support as well as those that we support with.

bulk-up-your-shoulders

On going relationships should motivate us to dig into unconditional love and share the load of others burdens. Giving the emotional encouragement and mental strength, so that the love of friendship spurs on that individual to continue. We have often said that we desire to work in a community of like-minded people: in order to do this we need to learn to carry the burdens and stress of others. Assist where needed and when available in order to bulk up our shoulders.

From my meager perspective, the greatest way to do this is to question your intent in everything. Are you noticing the down-trodden parent, the intimidated support worker or the overwhelmed team leader? Or, are you so caught up in the happenings of your own life that others are hidden in the background: with a painted banner over their heads that convinces you they are “happy”, “fine” or “will pull through with time”. I am convinced that we need to learn to become more intentional, bend down to help the helpless and bulk up our shoulders to carry the burden of others.

 

Ben, Director of Culture and Mentorship

 

A House Is Only a House Until a Family Makes It a Home

” I am an advocate of the common phrase, ‘mi casa es su casa’, which translates into ‘my house is your house.’ Though figuratively speaking, I feel that by taking the extra effort to make a house a safer place to live is possible. I believe a house is only a house until a family makes it a home. This, I find is a crucial part of my role as a support worker. I know that being dedicated and reliable with a healthy mix of willingness to learn, is vital to creating a fun, vibrant and effective family home. As it only takes one stone to create a ripple, just as personally I have been caught up in another upon me; I feel to carry this is an extraordinary phenomenon.

Such simple acts of caring for the next support person coming into the house helps usher in a stress-free environment (dishes, sweeping, bathroom etc.). It is often these little things that encapsulate the idea of Gentle Teaching and strives to create an environment of selflessness.”

Tony, COR Support

It Is Important To Listen

“For creating and maintaining a culture of gentleness with the guys I support it is important to listen to what they have to say, help the guys to feel safe and loved; and to be engaged. The way I do this is that when they are talking I make sure I am looking at them and responding to them even if I already know or have heard what they are telling me. Also, when they are upset or angry, I attempt to give them their space until they are ready to talk about what was upsetting them. I never get mad or yell!

Some of the ways that I make the guys feel safe is by telling them that I am here for them and that I am not going to let anything happen to them. Some of the ways that I show the guys love is by taking them to a place they love or by watching a show or a movie over and over just because it makes them happy. Another way I show that they are important and loved is that even when I am not supporting I will still come to hangout, answer calls or texts and play games. The main way that I help the guys feel loved is by telling them that they are smart, good and that I love them: I will also give hugs freely.

The way I get the guys feeling engaged is by taking them to my house and meeting my family; by engaging them to help me personally, or with tasks that need to be done around their houses. In creating and maintaining a culture of gentleness with supports, I try to be as helpful as I can by being flexible with open support times. Also instead of getting upset or questioning an issue, I either ask questions or talk to someone, like my team leader.”

Jenna, COR Support

Connections Help Build Relationships

The relationships and communication I maintain with the individuals I support have helped me establish a gentle, secure and caring presence within the homes of these individuals. By taking the time to get to know these people, I have learned how some of life’s little problems can build into a bad day. By being consistent, enthusiastic and a positive support, I have been able to help small problems stay small!

Sometimes, a little space and time to think is all that is needed to bring someone back to their personal best. It could be a trigger that can be removed from the environment, or even small talk about the Roughriders or Regina Pats. Knowing each of the people I support has taught me to truly consider how the world is uniquely different from everyone’s perspective and just because a problem may not seem like a big deal from my view point, it may be a crucial crutch in these people’s world view.

When I enter the homes of the individuals I support, I bring a friendly and supportive person into their lives. I have a lot in common with each person I support; these connections have helped build our relationship. It has been a wonderful experience to learn from these people and it continues to provide me with the opportunity to help someone see that there are a lot of great things in life and hopefully I can help make it a good day!

Mickey, COR Support