CDBA-Ontario celebrates its 25th Anniversary
Twenty-five years ago, a small group of individuals with a shared vision gathered to have the first board meeting of the Canadian Deafblind Association Ontario Chapter1. The top agenda items were difficult and complex, as they focused on how this group would go about fundraising and bringing awareness to the disability of deafblindness as well as the need for Intervenor Services2 to support adults who were deafblind. Some of whom were getting ready to leave the school system. This would be no easy feat.
But, with unwavering determination, a vision for the future and the dedication of volunteers, CDBA Ontario began to grow out of our humble beginnings. In twenty-five years, CDBA Ontario has become a respected leader in the provision of services to individuals who are deafblind and their families. There have been sixteen annual parent conferences, a name change and rebranding, the development of the CDBA Ontario Resource Centre3, and the current construction of a sensory garden and apartment complex. In addition CDBA Ontario provides adult Intervenor services throughout the province of Ontario to individuals who are deafblind in their family home settings, community settings and residential settings. Without a doubt, the catalyst behind all of our successes has been our vision statement that “All people who are deafblind will live rich meaningful lives.
Each of these milestones defines a dream that began twenty-five years ago. To celebrate, the Ontario Chapter of CDBA hosted a 25th anniversary fundraising gala with 150 guests gathered on November 14 2015 at the Chelsea Hotel4 in Toronto, Ontario.
Upon entering the Churchill Ballroom at The Chelsea Hotel, guests were delighted to see each table adorned with hand-crafted centerpieces created by a number of people in our services. No two centerpieces were alike as each person was encouraged to let their creativity flow and design something that represented the 25th anniversary of CDBA Ontario and what the organization meant to them. This special touch set the tone for the night as a subtle reminder of the importance of CDBA Ontario’s services and those who access them.
The evening began with a special performance that our guests will surely be talking about for some time. An open invitation was offered to those in our services to perform at the gala. Many were thrilled to be a part of the celebration! The performance included some people signing the words to “Together We Are One” by Canadian singer Serena Ryder5 and others were drumming to the beat of the song. Their commitment to practicing over the last couple of months with the assistance of CDBA Ontario Intervenors was endless and it showed. Though many were a bit nervous to perform in front of a large crowd, each person stood on the stage with confidence and pride. A standing ovation complimented this impressive, heartwarming performance.
Also performing live was 17-year-old Avery Williams who is deafblind. This talented young lady filled the room with her beautiful voice singing “Hero” by Mariah Carey, “Baby, I Love You” by Aretha Franklin, and “Stay” by Rihanna.
Cathy Proll, Executive Director of CDBA Ontario, took the audience on a journey through the past 25 years and ended her presentation with a beautiful slide presentation with pictures highlighting many of the different events and the people who have been apart of the organization over the years.
Excitement continued to fill the air as guests were able to take part in some fun fundraisers. Guests eagerly purchased chocolate bars for a chance to find two golden tickets. One prize was for two tickets to a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game and the second was for two tickets to a Toronto Raptors basketball game. A silent auction, 50/50 draw, and photo booth were also part of the evening’s events.
Closing out the night was a speech from Anabela DaSilva, president of the Board of Directors and the parent of a child who is deafblind. Anabela described to a captive audience that when she found CDBA Ontario, she found an extended family. For her, and many of the families involved with CDBA Ontario, this meant that they weren’t alone. She described this moment as feeling an immediate sense of belonging to community that understood their struggles. This came at a crucial time for her and her husband Mike, as they had been searching for some time for services for their child who is deafblind. This is something she will be forever grateful for.
A heartfelt thank you on behalf of everyone at CDBA Ontario wrapped up an evening filled with joy and sentiment as Anabela summed it up by saying: “thank you for inspiring us, believing in us, and helping us build an organization that can continue to ensure that individuals who are deafblind will live rich meaningful lives.”
Photos of the 25th anniversary fundraising gala can be viewed at: www.facebook.com/cdbaontario
1 www.cdbaontario.com. CDBA Ontario is a large corporate member of DbI.
2 Intervenor Services are provided to both children and adults by our staff of trained professionals (Intervenors). Intervenors provide communication and information in the preferred mode of the individual who is deafblind.
3 An article about the Resource Centre was featured in the 51st edition of DbI Review, July 2013.
A little village called ‘the Globe1’ – a basis for social connectedness
Two years ago I started a new job as a manager for a Residential home for 24 people with congenital deafblindness.
To many people this may sound strange to have 24 individuals with the same disability at the same place! Is this a totally opposite description of inclusion of people with disabilities? No I don’t think so. I will explain my thoughts!
Our residential home facility consists of 3 buildings connected by glass-lined hallways; two buildings provide private living quarters, while the third is primarily staff working area. Each of the living quarter buildings have the same structure: two groupings of six private apartments, each apartment grouping sharing a sitting room and kitchen area. Each apartment is the individual’s home, consisting of a private bedroom, living room and bath. The third building consists of a common area for meetings, offices for the managers and a massage room.
Most of the individuals prefer to eat together with their 5 other neighbours rather than being alone in their private apartment. Most also prefer to join in social contact in their shared living area. I know this appears to be like most other group homes throughout the world! The difference however is that they have the opportunity to visit and join in social contact among the 24 individuals living in the interconnected buildings.
At our residential home, there are 70 staff members. Many of them have worked with people with deafblindness for many years meaning that they have a wide range of knowledge and familiarity with many of the residents. The residents have the opportunity then to visit with staff members throughout the entire facility with whom they are familiar with and can share past experiences.
People with congenital deafblindness have special needs for communication and accessing social contact. Since few individuals in the regular population can provide these special communication needs, living in this setting provides a welcome opportunity for them to engage with a wide range of staff members and others who have that special knowledge.
Thus in ‘The Globe’ we can provide a wide range of opportunities for the individuals to choose socializing with others within the complex that they know and wish to share an interest with.
In a setting with 24 residents, the individuals have an opportunity to build friendships with so many different individuals living at the same place. Some friendships might consist of a cup of coffee, others might be romantic, some are founded in other common interests.
The fact that we are in the same building gives the residents opportunities to visit others across the hall without any help from the staff. Hence the social context is much wider as well as the opportunities for more relationships, inspiration and a sense of community involvement.
Therefore, in my opinion, the Globe, which provides an environment where individuals located together in the same place having an opportunity to make their own independent choices, is a prime example of inclusion – a human right.
Henriette Hermann Olesen
Centre for Deafblindness and Hearing Loss2 (Aalborg, Denmark)
1 The Globe is Kloden in Danish language
2 www.chd.rn.dk. Centre for Deafblindness and Hearing Loss is a small corporate member of DbI.