I'm in Powell River, a beautiful community on the coast of British Columbia. PR is beautiful not just because of the ocean and mountains, it's beautiful because of it's people. I've just had a few minutes with the Powell River Self Advocate Group who are showing me a beautiful lavender binder with the picture of a little girl on the cover. To a one the self advocates are brimming with excitement ... no, that's not the right word ... pride, maybe? ... no, that's not the right word either ... love - perhaps. The picture is of a little girl from India named Reena. She was adopted through Foster Parents Plan back in 1999.
The self advocate grouped worked to raise money to sponser a child with an intellectual disability in a far away land. They wanted to make a contribution to the world and, even more a contribution to a little girl with a disability. They wanted, as part of the disability community, to make a difference. And indeed they have. They have all Reena's pictures here in the binder. She is beautiful - disability or not - she is absolutely beautiful. She looks through the pictures to the self advocate committee which sponsers her and the community she lives in.
They have all the letters and all the photographs lovingly kept. I'm reminded of visitng a grandmother who had kept momentos of her family guarded and tended in a simliar binder. That memory makes me smile, this group of self advocates may have disabilities but they understand family. The human family. And they are clearly proud of their daughter.
When I ask about birthdays and holidays, they all chime in, the excitement of discussing their child overwhelming them. They talk about the 'rules' about having to send parcels that are flat, small and of low weight. They've sent tee shirts and scrunchies for her hair. They are already planning for a New Year's present to be sent. They've learned that Reena comes from a different culture so they send presents that are a celebration of her life and faith - not their own. They've learned what all parents learn, that the needs of the child come before the needs of the adult.
The money needed to sponsor a child is raised by the self advocates having hot dog sales and raffles and anything they can think of to keep the funds rolling in. They take their responsibility seriously. It means something to them that Reena is growing up knowing about others, with disabilities like she has, care about her. She is not alone.
And looking into the eyes of the group.
Neither are they.