A provincial non-profit organization that promotes self-advocacy for adult men and women labelled with an intellectual disability is looking to expand its reach in Manitoba.
People First of Manitoba is seeking to add three new Winnipeg-based chapters in the neighbourhoods of North Kildonan, St. James and St. Vital before the end of this year. The new groups would join four existing groups in Winnipeg, Selkirk, Beausejour and Portage la Prairie.
The President of People First of Manitoba says the member-led organization is looking to expand as part of ongoing efforts to inform people what their individual rights are, help them develop more skills and confidence, and learn how to take charge of their lives.
“We want to try and help each other as much as we can,” Kevin says.
Epic Opportunities hosted an information session with People First in August at Epic’s head office at 1644 Dublin Ave. The purpose of the meeting was to provide people the agency serves with information on what People First is all about and what it does to help empower people. The meeting was attended by people supported by Epic Opportunities, Epic Opportunities staff and representatives of People First.
“We really just wanted to provide information to people we serve about what People First is and what they do to empower people,” says Jennifer Welsh, a Service Development Coordinator with Epic Opportunities who helped organize the meeting. “It’s a huge opportunity for growth and empowerment for people.”
Welsh says while Epic Opportunities will assist anyone who expresses an interest in learning more about People First, the decision on whether to join the organization is entirely up to individuals.
The People First movement began in Canada in 1973 and its first chapter was established in B.C. the following year. Today, it has a dozen provincial and territorial chapters including here in Manitoba, where it currently has more than 100 members. Its mandate is to raise awareness about the importance of inclusion and equality and promote respect for people living with an intellectual disability. Although it works with non-profit agencies such as Epic Opportunities, Kevin stresses People First is entirely self-directed and all decisions are made by individual members.
One of People First’s ongoing initiatives is its Language Project that was created in partnership with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. The project offers presentations about language and the ‘R word’ to middle school students to help them understand the importance and impact their words can have on students with intellectual disabilities. The presentations are conducted by People First members who share their own experiences with students.
“It has been very successful. I think over the last two years we’ve talked to about 600 kids. I think it’s helping make a difference,” Kevin says.
Anyone interested in more information about becoming a member of People First of Manitoba can contact Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about People First of Manitoba visit www.facebook.com/peoplefirstmanitoba or peoplefirstmanitoba.weebly.com.