What is the best way to get to know someone? You WALK IT OUT.
Recently, Vocation Plus Connections, Inc. hosted a town hall workshop with the mission of breaking down barriers between those living with disabilities and local law enforcement. VPCI is a vocational rehabilitation program for adults living with developmental disabilities who receive services from the Central Valley Regional Center. The idea for the Connections Project was to bring these groups of people together in a fun, non-emergency setting.
The day got started by literally walking it out. We got in two lines and everyone had a chance to boogey on down the line. This immediately relaxed everyone and, without even knowing it, barriers were starting to give.
Throughout the course of the day, people got to know people. The goal of the meeting was to highlight that everyone is the same. Despite a badge, or an assistive device, each person in that room was the same. Every single person was there to learn, to grow.
Attendees included individuals who receive supportive services, representatives from the Fresno Police Department Crisis Intervention Unit, and various advocates from the community. We talked about the importance of empathy and stepping into someone else’s shoes. We literally stepped into new shoes. Given a scenario and using different shoes as visuals, groups worked together to discuss how to support people in different situations, even if you can’t relate.
Instead of talking about differences, we focused on perspective. Everything and everyone is subjective. Our life experiences shape who we are at any given moment. In this moment, everyone was happy to talk and, just as important, happy to listen.
Once we all established a level of comfort with each other, the group as a whole discussed what it is like for the officers in the field. Questions were asked, answers were given, and community was created.
The Connections Project is an ongoing project that is taking place between Vocation Plus Connections, Inc. and local service agencies. Still to come … the Fresno Fire Department and American Ambulance!