Campbellford – People First Northumberland is a self-advocate group that promotes the rights, abilities and strengths of people who have an intellectual disability.
It also serves as an advisory team to Community Living Campbellford/Brighton’s board of directors.
With just 10 people in the group, members are looking to increase that number and broaden their reach by engaging more of their peers in their activities.
“We want to get bigger so people can know what we stand for and what we’re all about,” said People First president Jennifer Grol at an open house held Feb. 16.
Being a member “means a great deal,” she said. “I like helping people and I like getting the word out … telling little kids about inclusion. It makes me feel proud of what I do.”
Classroom talks and other speaking engagements are “a great way to get involved in the community and to show them what we can do,” she said.
The aim in reaching out publicly is “to get everybody to be included, it doesn’t matter what they’re doing,”or “whether they have a disability or not,” said Community Living coordinator of support and services Melissa Cowey.
Schoolchildren are especially receptive to People First’s message.
“The kids are amazing, their hands are going up all the time asking questions and getting engaged,” said “The kids absolutely love it.”
This is the third year members will be going into schools in Trent Hills to make a presentation, but the plan is “to branch out a little bit into Brighton” as well, Cowey said.
Members “have grown so much” since joining the group and are “more comfortable” speaking in public.
“It changed me into a better person,” Grol said. “I’m outspoken more than what I used to be.”
People First Northumberland also acts as a resource for people who receive developmental services, hosts fun social events, organizes an annual conference, and fund raises to support its ongoing advocacy efforts.