“Nothing about us without us.” This principle recognizes that individuals with lived experience know what is best for themselves and their community and that their participation is integral to the success of the program. When the principle is used, the organization’s work is guided by the needs and aspirations of the people served. Those people served are provided meaningful opportunities for participation in project planning, leadership, evaluation, and promotion.”
This statement from the Community Services Recovery Funding application exemplifies the planning done by the Valemount Senior Citizens Housing Society for the Valemount Cares project until recently. I have lived experience in a rural community and although I live independently now, I expect my housing needs will change as I age further. I was honoured to have the opportunity to lend my voice in the planning stages of the proposed senior’s residence in Valemount. The community consultations that were held over the past three years were well-attended, well-facilitated and included the voices of local service providers as well as provincial leaders. The planned activities were participatory and inclusive. The data collected was relevant, informative and reflected the needs of the community. Looking over the sea of silver-headed peers, I felt like I had come home.
One of my questions was, “When I can no longer live independently, I want my move to the Valemount Senior’s residence to be my last move. Will I be able to receive the care I need there as I approach the end of my life?” The answer I got was yes, Phase 1 of the project will provide supported living and Phase 2 of the project will provide further assistance to those who need it. Dr. Markham openly suggested he would like to see a dedicated clinic space.
We all know of treasured elders who have had to leave the valley to end their days elsewhere. We also know families who have struggled to stay connected to vulnerable loved ones through their last journey. This collective knowledge was the inspiration for the Valemount Senior’s residence in the first place. After years of talking, finally there was some action. Many of us felt a part of the action. Even from Dunster I felt a sense of ownership and belonging to the project. I made a sizable donation.
I am devastated that the Board of the Valemount Senior Citizen’s Society has ignored the people served by changing the purpose of the project to include independent living only. And that this decision was made without consulting community members and by undermining volunteers and paid staff by devaluing the innovative and progressive accomplishments of the past three years. The Board is eroding the public trust and credibility through this process. This is not community building. There are better ways of making change happen that ensure inclusion, justice, respect and learning for all.