Parrainage Champlain organization: a year of sharing and learning

by Do234 on May 11, 2015 - 7:55pm

     Over a year ago, I started volunteering on a monthly basis with Greenpeace, the Phare de Longeuil working with homeless people, and the Santropol Roulant collaborating with elderly and xenophobic people. I always really enjoyed it, but recently, I came to realize that I wanted to engage myself into a greater commitment, something that would maybe not reach a lot of people, but that could have a greater impact on one individual. I wanted to meet and share with someone experiencing a different reality, or at least, more than I was used to. When I learned about the Parrainage civique Champlain organization, I understood that it was pretty much what I was looking for. Their purpose of pairing a volunteer (godmother/godfather) with a person marginalized by his disabilities (goddaughter/godson) in order for them to do one activity a month seemed like a really good idea.

     Having a family member living with Down syndrome, I am aware since I was a little girl of disabled people’s difficulties in their daily life when it comes to cooking, cleaning, showering etc. However, I never was so aware of their difficulties in society. My 21-year-old adopted cousin was always well surrounded by his family. He never had to work full time to pay for his food and lodgment. Unfortunately, not all disabled people have his chance, and many of them have to tighten their belt in order to survive their precarious situation.

     Recently, at the same time I was experiencing the process of becoming a godmother, I learned about disabled people’s situation in the workforce. Since austerity is launched in Quebec, jobs are cut and disabled people are among the first ones to be touched. Their unemployment rate is close to 50%, although many of them would be able to work properly. This statistic shocked me, but at the same time, I was not so surprised considering to what extent our society tends to marginalize what it considers as "different". However, I certainly was not aware of sheltered workshops, these groups that claim to be tools to help disabled people developing the skills they will need later on in the competitive workforce. The reality is that these groups marginalize disabled people by segregating them in an isolated environment. Moreover, by paying them less than the minimum wage, they perpetuate their advanced financial insecurity. Many of them will stay in these workshops all their lives, and will never know anything of regular workforce. I have no difficulty imagining how this situation contributes to their isolation and how it can be difficult for someone living in constant financial fear to maintain good social relationships. I realized that spending time with a disabled person who lives, to a certain extent, these difficulties could help him or her feeling less lonely. Indeed, I would find later on that my 19-year-old goddaughter is studying at the high school level in a specialized class, and that she cannot find a job because of her intellectual disability.

     I also came to know more about sensationalism of disabled people in the news. When the perpetrator of a crime suffers from a certain mental illness, journalists often emphasize his or her mental condition instead of focusing on information that really matter. That was the case for Rocco Magnotta, diagnosed schizophrenic. People felt even less concern with the crime, since "Lin Jun was only a poor young man who fell into the hands of a dangerous mentally ill." This sensationalism is not always good, since it gives a bad image of mental illness. It is only widening the gap between disabled people and the rest of the population. Ironically, studies have shown that people with mental disorders are more often the victims of crimes rather than the perpetrators. Nevertheless, when they engage in violence, it is often turn towards themselves. Everything encompassed by this violence can be attributed to many things, but the marginalization and isolation of mental disorder have certainly a role to play in making these people feel helpless, hopeless and secluded.

     My engagement with Parrainage civique Champlain gives me the opportunity to make a little change in the life of an individual who, in his own way, is suffering from isolation and marginalization. I am conscious this relationship ought not become one of superiority where I would consider myself as the "savior" of someone else in "need". Instead, I think it will evolve into a healthy relationship in which we will both share. Of course, I won’t turn the world upside down with this action, but I think if everyone gave a little bit of time for a cause dear to their heart, our concerns would be much more different.

    But let me explain more specifically how I got paired. Before the volunteering officially started, I had the opportunity to meet many different people with different disabilities to see with whom I shared the most characteristics. I had to get along well with this person since I would be spending time once a month the rest of the year with him or her. I met Amélie*, a 19-year-old women living with a mild social anxiety disorder and a mild intellectual disability. We realized we shared common interests such as love of animals, nature and outdoors activities. Amélie is rather shy and is not really comfortable in public or any social situations with strangers, but she always answers when we ask her a question. After we met via Parrainage Champlain during a dinner at the sugar shack in March, I officially saw her two times. Last month, we went to Place Longueuil for the 2-day Easter Egg hunt. All the funds raised during these two days went to Opération Enfant Soleil. We spent hours hiding eggs for children looking for them in a thematic setting, or distributing gifts and prizes. After few hours, Amélie seemed to be more comfortable. She even opened up to parents who were thanking her for giving her time to an important cause.

     Last week, we spent time together playing bowling with other people from Parrainage Champlain. Once again, I observed Amélie opening up to others while time was passing by. Her face was brightening, and she was smiling and laughing without embarrassment towards the end of the session. Afterwards, we spent time together eating ice cream, learning to know each other a bit more in private.

     I can’t wait to see how this relation will evolve and if it will tighten when we will know each other a bit more. We will not always do activities with other people, but I think she is moving in the right direction to manage her social anxiety disorder when she finds herself to be in social settings.

     Finally, I created a Prezi in order to virtually present the Parrainage civique Champlain organization. Their official website is certainly more complete, but here’s a brief overview of what the organization offers. https://prezi.com/-saiogqjvrwd/parrainage-champlain/

 * The name was changed in order to maintain privacy

 

 

 

 

Work cited

Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada. ADAC. ADAC, 2007. Web. 10 May 2015. http://www.anxietycanada.ca/english/index.php

Cliche, Jean-François. "Aux frontières de la folie." Le Soleil. La Presse, 29 March 2015. Web. 20 April 2015.

Picard, André. ''You don’t help disabled workers by hiding them.'' The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail, 24 March 2015. Web. 11 April. 2015. 

Wolbert, Harry. "’Sheltered workshops’ should be abolished." Winnipeg Sun. Sun+, 1 February 2013. Web. 20 April 2015.

 

 

Comments

I am deeply touched and appreciative of your volunteer work.. It is sad to realize that many people who have Down syndrome aren’t properly or adequately cared for.. This needs to change. There are some other volunteer opportunities for you in Montreal if you wish to help even more. Centre Miriam in Montreal is focused on helping and caring for people with Down syndrome. They are in need of volunteers to help them by visiting and doing activities with the Down syndrome. Minimum requirements are two hours a week for three months. I have attached the web address if you wish to have more information. Continue your excellent work!
http://www.centremiriam.ca/CENTREMIRIAM_WEB/FR/fPublicAccueil.awp

I would like to congratulate you, Corinne, for breaking the ice with Amélie. Even if I am a very shy person myself, I cannot even imagine how it must be hard for someone who has a social anxiety disorder to interact with strangers. In my opinion, if there is one thing that shall not be forgotten about your post is that both of you learned, are learning, and will learn from each other. Amélie is discovering that people like you can become good friends that she can trust while you are learning the importance of giving company to marginalized people. My final paper came to the same conclusion as you regarding marginalized students, which is that school principals fail to provide appropriate resources and to communicate with students who have special needs because of their use of an avoidance strategy to ensure them an equitable access (Goddard, Johansson, and Norberg 10). Indeed, sociologists Goddard, Johansson and Norberg asked to five Canadian school principals why no programs were offered to marginalized students. All five answered that, unfortunately, they have to offer ‘regular’ services to students who would rather belong in specialized schools, and that, to make matters worse, their budgets do not allow them to offer special learning environments. Similarly, a young adult where I work has a learning disability. My boss explained to me that she would have been a talented student if she would have not been bullied at school and that her school would have allowed her to learn with students like her. The first day that I worked with her, I discovered someone who was very sensible to the feeling of others, and who put much attention to the work that she was entrusted to. Another example of her perseverance is that she managed to obtain her high school diploma, despite the fact that she was bullied and that she was in a regular school where no special resources were provided. Thus, the researches that I made about marginalized students and my personal experience come to the same conclusion as your volunteer project; they are as intelligent as anyone, but they are not put in a context that allows people to see their knowledge and life experiences at a fair value.

Works Cited

Goddard, J. Tim, Olof Johnsson, and Katarina Norberg. "Managing Equity: Experiences from Canada and Sweden." International Studies In Educational Administration (Commonwealth Council For Educational Administration & Management (CCEAM)) 38.3 (2010): 3-17. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 May 2015.

Wow!
I think that what you do is amazing for those children in need and even if you help one person, as you said, if everybody would give a little bit of their time to help others, we would live in a peaceful and a better world. You really have a big heart and people like you need to be rewarded. I totally know what you feel when you help this girl. I used to volunteer for ‘’children in needs organizations’’ and it is simply amazing. Every opportunity I get, I do it. You know that you help someone and it helps you too to realize how we are lucky to be able to communicate easily and express ourselves like we want. The fact that you help someone specifically and you try to follow her as much as you can to see her evolution, is really interesting, I never thought about doing that. I will consider this kind of project for the future. Good job and don’t give up amazing person!

Giving friendship and affection to people which rarely receive these things because of their disorders, you must almost feel like a super hero. By giving happiness to others, not only do you help these people feel more confident and positive about themselves, you also give happiness towards yourself too. You even get new friends by volunteering with Parrainage Champlain! I find it very respectable that you've decided to give your time to help people like Amélie to feel happy and less alone in our society. The fact that one of your family members has down syndrome must've been quite a source of your determination to be able to give other people with disabilities the love they rarely or never received. The already strong experience that you've had with people with disorders is clearly shown in this post because not many people would offer to help these people in need, which is obviously a problem that should've been solved yesterday. I truly think that what you've done, even if it was for one person and it may have seemed small, was maybe one of the biggest things you could've done to help a person!

Hello Do234, I am really impressed by your Prezi show! ( I guess it’s kind of an emotion mixed with admiration and jealousy) ~ I am also really interested when you say you have chosen to change your way of contribution from serving the greater number to serving the greater need. Because in the concept of effective altruism brought up by Peter Singer, it’s often the quantitative aspect of altruism that is encouraged. However, I am of your opinion that sometimes to develop a deep connection and mutual trust with a person is more of a life changing experience than simply providing a solid material support. The spiritual growth descended from a relationship based on a profound trust and affection can’t be simple valued by the number of people involved in the relationship. In the contrary, this connection is all the more valuable because it can’t be quantified nor reproduced using simply an effective economic model. Another very important thing that you have taught me in your post is that sometimes the more positive and more effective way to help somebody is often give them opportunities to contribute to the betterment of the others and the society. During their contribution, not only can they gain confidence, self-esteem and social skills but it is also a process of achieving their self-worth. If there is any recommendation or ideas that I can share with you I’d say provide your goddaughter with more opportunities to contribute and to discover her own values such as helping hiding the eggs on Easter. I believe your goddaughter will benefit greatly from her time spent with you. Wish you good luck