Right now I'm writing the blog as I sit in a hotel that was once a massive country estate house. It's buried deep in the south of England and sits on huge grounds. The windows in our room are impossibly tall, the decor precisely stubtle. Joe is bustling about getting luggage out to the car in preparation for the drive to the lecture site. We both can smell the smells of an English hot breakfast being cooked just down the hallway. This is as 'England' as this island can get.
I'm thinking about home. Today Vita, the agency I where I work as clinical manager, is having their Christmas party. For the month that I'm away on this trip, I'm in contact with at least one person from Vita every day. There are still programmes to review, questions to answer, opinions to give. Email has made it possible to still feel present to the organization and part of the action.
As I've been here in England, several organizations have heard about Vita's great experiment all ask detailed questions. It's vision to put protocols and procedures and practices into place in order to become abuse free. Even yesterday in London, I recieved an invite to come back next year to Cornwall and do a presentaion on what is now being called the 'Vita Model'. People shake their heads in wonder at the absolute courage of an organization to deeply look inwards and then work to change the corporate culture. One person said to me, "The organization did this voluntarily, they weren't forced?"
It's not that we haven't hit bumps on the road. Made mistakes, big and little. Had to apologize to staff and members time and again. But, um, that's why it's called a journey. So, I'm proud of what we've done. I'm prouder still that we haven't lost the will or the focus.
But there is more than that, this year we have moved person after person after person from the institution to community. We sat in meetings and heard how 'impossible the person was' only to discover how deeply possible the dream was. People greet me in freedom when I last saw them in captivity. How cool is that. I spoke to an elderly man here about his days in a large institutions. "You can't believe what people did back then," he said, wiping at his eyes. I put my hand on his shoulder and said, "I can and I do and I'm sorry."
I wonder if our young staff know what a privilege it is to be here at this moment, a moment that is monumentous in the history of disability in Canada. Another province goes institution free - that's how the press sees it. 'An entire people is freed' that's how it ought t be seen.
So, this year, I'm missing the Christmas party and I'm missing being there. I'm missing my own team - abuse preventors, sex educators, advocacy facilitators - and I'm missing the larger team of Vita.
Merry Christmas all of you! Party hard. Listen carefully tonight and you hear a glass 'tink' to your health a few thousand miles away.