There were a few interesting things about putting on this workshop.   At a conference a couple of years ago there was a request from some members who wanted more information about this topic so that they could feel more welcomed.   Paige, Nikita and Colin volunteered to be on the presenting panel, and when we contacted Robin from QMUNITY (Vancouver’s Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Transgender community centre) he was excited to be asked to be part of it.

Robin did a great job of giving an overview of what the issues are around gender and sexuality and what QMUNITY offers and how it is their intention to be welcoming of all kinds of people.   Colin is a volunteer at QMUNITY so was able to talk about that as well.   Nikita, Paige and Colin talked about their lives as gay, lesbian, bi and transgender self advocates and told great stories.   They led a discussion with the room about what it was like to be “doubly excluded” or in the case of transgender self advocates “triply excluded.”    Paige then brainstormed with people in the room and on the panel about how self advocates can be more welcoming of diversity in their groups, in their communities, workplaces and social lives.   Nikita moderated the group and made sure that everyone was included and had a chance to talk.  People asked great questions.  Gordon Fletcher and Aaron helped the panel organize their thoughts to put this talk together and made the graphic chart (instead of using a powerpoint) but they presented and facilitated without any support.

The evaluations and feedback from participants were amazing – people said it was a great workshop, the best they’d been to, really opened their eyes, they felt so much more comfortable, they learned a lot etc.   A couple of people at the debrief said it was the highlight of the conference for them.

This workshop fit into the theme of Gordon’s keynote which was about welcoming diversity – who isn’t here?  And how might we welcome young people, people of color, LGBT people, alternative lifestyle people.  Gordon and Aaron role played about how when people feel unheard and unrecognized they stop trying to be heard and just leave.

Next year the panelists intend on applying to present at the BCACL Conference for a longer, more interactive workshop.

Some photos from our 2012 conference and AGM “Nothing About Us Without Us!”

Our weekend together in Burnaby B.C. started with a world cafe asking the question “What About Us and….?”  and people identified ten topics of interest.   One of these changed after the first round of conversations to “What About Us and Institutions” because people felt this was an important part of People First’s history AND it was also important to recognize that there are still influences in services and supports that want to “institutionalize” people who have been labelled by placing them in larger group homes, or homes where rules are more important than people, or situations where they don’t get to participate in “regular” community life (like working, going to church, knowing neighbours, having things to feel proud of).    The world cafe was facilitated by Gladys and Ryan from Esatta Cooperative, self advocate facilitators, and graphic facilitation was by provincial advisor Aaron (www.imagineacircle.com).   Ryan and Gladys were great and people loved to see their ideas drawn on the chart.   Friday ended with a well attended and fun pub night with a silent auction and 50/50 draw.

Saturday began with a keynote about “Unity and Leadership in the People First movement” by Gordon Fletcher and then everyone broke into groups for nine great break-out session.   Sunday began with a brief presentation about how people who have been labelled have joined forces in groups all over the world, and how those groups join together to form provincial or state groups, and then national groups and international groups.   We were joined by Kaeti and Raymond from People First New Zealand (thanks for getting up at 4 a.m. to talk to us!) and everyone had a great conversation asking them about what things were like there, and telling them about what we do here.   We hoped for some other groups to be able to Skype in as well but for various reasons they didn’t make it.  Everyone wants to do more of this!

Afterwards, we looked at proposed changes from the constitution committee and there were board reports, then new members were appointed to the board of directors, and Lorrie thanked the membership and called a short meeting of the new board.   An announcement will come out shortly about the new board.

Special thanks to our guests, our advisors, all the volunteers who assisted us in so many ways, the Station Square Pub for supporting our fund-raising and the Metrotown Hilton for their support.  Photos by Jo-Anne Gauthier and Aaron Johannes.