Learning and Action for Inclusion…

I was pleased to attend and be on the faculty of the Toronto Summer Inclusion Institute this month. The Institute is sponsored by Inclusion Press, the publishers of Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community, a Savannah story that Susan Earl and I wrote several years ago. One hundred and fifty people from the USA, Canada, the Netherlands, England, Ireland and New Zealand converged for five days of deep learning.


The Institute uses an active learning model. You don’t sit down much, and when you do it’s to have conversations with another person or a small group of people. You spend a lot of time listening and talking with other people. You are guided to co-create ideas with other people. You get your head, heart and hands moving.


As always, I brought back more than I can share. Here are just few assorted take aways…


I attended a parent group meeting with about 10 families of adults with disabilities who live in Toronto. Families were told to assume that money and assistance from the government would be diminishing in both the short and long terms and to begin to think about forming support circles around themselves and their loved ones. I sat next to a couple who had moved to Toronto from Columbia, South America. He is a cancer surgeon and she is an international inclusion activist. Their son is in his early 20s, has Down Syndrome and has learned his new language – English- well enough to hold a job and to get around Toronto on street cars and subways. He also goes to English as Second Language classes at night at a local community college. Encouraging for sure.


A couple of people who have physical disabilities and who are active in self advocacy in Canada and New Zealand attended my session which featured stories of people here in Savannah who are involved in citizen advocacy relationships. Both stayed afterward to say that they appreciated the “balance and respect” they saw and heard between the people who knew each other. Especially encouraging from these particularly thoughtful folks.


Anne Mitchell from Indianapolis and I read the Waddie Welcome story twice in Toronto. Anne is organizing a Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community Worldwide Reading Project to coincide with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2011. We now have people in 5 countries and 3 continents working on building a “Worldwide Beloved Learning Community.” The goal is to have 5,000 readings of the Waddie Welcome story by small groups of people over kitchen, coffee, dinner, diner, pub and conference tables between September 1 and January 17, 2011. More details on this exciting project will follow soon.


Here are several books and tapes that came back with me. Please give me a call at 236-5798 if you are interested in borrowing any of these items:


Gentle Heart Fearless Mind – Discovering Confidence, Compassion and Well Being through the Practice of Mindfulness. DVD by Alan Sloan. Alan is a friend and ally. He has been practicing and teaching mindfulness for more than 40 years He will spend the month of March or April 2011 with us in Savannah. He helps people find ways to be more resilient. This is an important trait for anyone who is an advocate.


Power and Love- A theory and practice of Social Change. Book by Adam Kahane. This book helps us see the interplay between power and love in our own lives and in the lives of organizations and communities. “This breakthrough book addresses the central challenge of our time: finding a way to work together to solve the problems we have created.” — Nelson Mandela


The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. Book by John McKnight and Peter Block. John McKnight first came to Savannah 25 years ago. He met a man named Sam Benjamin who was at the center of an effort involving citizen advocate Clete Bergan who rallied 300 Savannahians in the building of a house for Sam and his family. McKnight never forget being out at Coffee Bluff hearing the story and seeing the effort. David Young, then Executive Director of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, heard John speak at a Leadership Savannah meeting that was organized by Chatham-Savannah Citizen Advocacy. He was spellbound and later held a living room meeting for McKnight to meet Savannah’s business and civic leaders. Peter Block heard me tell the Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community story in Cincinnati a few years ago. He just dropped by as a favor to the organizers of the event, but halfway into the story, he called his office, canceled his appointments for the rest of the day and stayed with us.


Person Centered Ways to Build Community: The PATH and MAPS Handbook. Workbook by John O’Brien, Jack Pearpoint and Lynda Kahn. This remarkable workbook offers ways to help people ask and answer this simple question “How can this person show up in community life as a valued friend and a contributing citizen?”  This question challenges the rational, form and nature of almost all human service efforts.


Let me know if you would like to borrow one or more of these resources. Or you can order your own copies from Inclusion Press at //www.inclusion.com.

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