We are people living in Kelowna, Winfield and West Kelowna, who have lived in institutions, group homes and proprietary care. Some of us still live in these places, but many of us live in our own apartments and houses. Some of us have only ever lived in our parent’s homes. Self Advocates have formed a group and we get together by our own choice. No one is forced to come to a meeting and you can leave a meeting if you want.
Self Advocates have all lived in situations where the decisions made in our lives were always made by other people; sometimes the self-advocate was not allowed to be a part of decision-making. Self Advocates are people who have for different reasons been labeled as disabled. We may have learning or physical disabilities or other unique differences and challenges. We have diverse abilities!
Why do Self Advocates have meetings?
The Kelowna Self Advocates get together to talk about many things:
• How to make things better in our lives.
• Our Rights, Responsibilities and Abilities. Watch the video below!
• Our goals and what we want for ourselves not what other people want for us.
• Issues and problems and how some of our problems are the same and can be solved together.
We ask many questions and demand answers. We think for ourselves and make our own decisions and help people in the group to understand things that are said.
We talk about what it was like to be locked away for many years and how we must stand up and make ourselves heard and how to let the world know that we do not wish to be shut out any more.
We talk about the ugliness in our past and share feelings about these times to help look to our future and make it more beautiful.
Self Advocates do other things as well!
At most of the Self Advocate meetings we share many things, like reading The Voice, The WestCoast Reader and Community Living News. It does not matter if you can read or write there is always someone in the group who is willing to read these important papers and explain what they mean.
Self Advocates have an advisor who helps at meetings. The advisor explains what people’s problems are and the group discusses ways to deal with the problem sometimes getting together with other people to solve problems.
We also get together with the government to let them know if we are having problems with the services we receive and to suggest ways that we can help the government and other agencies make their services to Self Advocates better.
Self Advocates have given talks at conferences to let people know what it is like to wear a label like mentally challenged or handicapped.
We have fun too getting together for pizzas, dances, coffee and more.
Self Advocates from around BC meet each year at the Inclusion BC Annual general meeting. This gives us the chance to be a part of making decisions that affect us.
How can I become a Self Advocate?
If you are interested in becoming involved in self advocacy, contact Pathways at email address firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 250-763-4839 and we will provide you current contact information.
Some reasons people give for becoming Self Advocates:
“In the past I was not able to choose the clothes I wore because other people chose them for me.”
“Because I only had one outfit to wear and that was what the institution gave me.”
“Because an education and the opportunity for one were out of the question. Today we demand people speak in plain language so we can understand.”
“Because I want to live on my own and my parents won’t let me.”
“No one thinks I can do anything for myself. I can.”
“I want to learn more things so I can do them for myself and so I can help others.”
“I don’t like when other people think for me. I have a brain.”
“Because I want to go to meetings with the government and discuss issues and to become more knowledgeable about my community.”
“Because I have something important to say.”