How Independent Facilitation is Making an Impact, One Person at a Time

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Bridges to Belonging: The Business of Curating Dreams

There are four things on Barb's bucket list: to go swimming, to sing in a choir, to belong to a church and, eventually, move out of the rural nursing facility that has been her home for seven years. 

Barb, 58, is a good couple decades younger than most other residents. It was her husband's illness that landed her here - "I just tagged along," she says, though she herself lives with epilepsy and developmental challenges. Since he passed away, not knowing how or where she could go, she stayed put, hardly ever leaving the facility.

"It makes for a pretty isolated life," says Lorna Aberdein, whose job, simply put, is to help people achieve their dreams.

Lorna and 10 other Independent Facilitators with Waterloo Region's Bridges to Belonging provide person-directed planning and facilitation for 130 individuals with developmental disabilities or mental health concerns. 

"The feeling of belonging is a human need, just like food, water and shelter." But it isn't easy to everyone: due to barriers, finding a place in community remains a dream for many. "Belonging means something different to each person," says Lorna, who first focuses on a person's abilities, needs and wants. "Then I work myself out of the picture so they can create their own relationships."

What's in it for Lorna? Well, it is more than a job. "I love to have an impact on someone's life." Lorma, also 58, has some formal training but also lots of life experience: her daughter lives with Down Syndrome. 

For Barb, belonging started with a trip to the pool. She still recalls a teenage memory at Round Lake in Haliburton when she snuck off one night to swim the length of the lake. Barb, who uses a wheelchair, has never had a seizure while in the water. It was a freedom she never forgot and an opportunity that just never seemed open to her. 

"We bought a swim suit first," says Lorna, "then found a pool with a lift, plus Mobility Plus to get Barb there."

Singing with the Waterloo's "Buddy Choir" has had the biggest impact on Barb's everyday life. Lorna accompanied her initially but now Barb attends on her own and she and many choir members have become fast friends. "Thank goodness, 'cause I can't sing for the life of me!" laughs Lorna. 

Next on Barb's to do list? Attending service at St. Andrew's in Kitchener. "I haven't been to church since my twenties. I feel like my prayers have been answered," says Barb.