What is community connection and why does it matter? The 2016 Orientation Manual for Direct Support Professionals and Supervisors: Supporting People in their Homes and Communities defines community connection as, “may include a person in social gatherings outside of the primary connection, others recognizing and appreciating their contributions, and forming friendships that extend beyond the reason they are gathered. When a person is not there they are missed and people ask about them.”
At Grafton, we provide a positive and supportive living environment for our clients and our staff care deeply for the clients they serve. So why is having connections outside of that “family-like” environment so critical?
Recently, I asked several people what they liked to do during their free time when they were not working. The answers varied greatly amongst the responders. But what was common to all of their answers was that at least one activity involved other people. And the people they mentioned were not paid to be in their lives.
As human beings, we want to be connected to other people, doing the things we enjoy with the people we choose to do them with. This also applies to the individuals that we serve. While some of our clients may not be able to express their dreams, hopes and desires in ways that we can easily understand, they want and are entitled to fulfilling lives. So it is up to us to facilitate those connections.
How do we do that? The same way we find activities for ourselves. When we want to do something fun, we begin searching for activities in our local communities (and beyond) that match our interests. We may look in the newspaper, do an internet search, or even ask other people. We can do the same for our clients. If a client likes to go bowling, in addition to putting bowling on the group home activity calendar, we can explore bowling leagues that the client may be able to join. If a client likes sports, we can look for sporting events in the local community and ways that he/she might become involved. If a client likes to garden, we can look for a garden club. If a client wants to go to church, we can help him/her find a church that lines up with his/her beliefs, and do everything we can to make sure he/she has opportunities to attend the church of his/her choice on a regular basis as well as become involved with projects the church is doing. The list of possibilities is endless.
When I spend time with people that I care about, doing the things that I enjoy doing, I feel a sense of contentment. Afterward, it becomes a memory that I can recall as often as I desire, and that same feeling of contentment returns. It becomes an important part of my story. Every human being has a story. We are part of our clients’ stories. We can help them continue to write their stories by facilitating community connection.