Sun 17 Apr 2005
Cumberland Perry Association for Retarded Citizens is an organization of volunteers who help many people with different levels of mental disabilities. There are people who are able to live in an appartement building for the elderly, there are people who have their own rooms but live together in a house and then there are people who live in a cluster appartements. The cluster home is similar to that of the appartement building but they do not have as much freedom. Depending of how impairing the disability is, is how the volunteers of CPARC determine where to place a client under their care. In the appartement for the elderly, the people there are able to spend much of their time independantly. However, in the group home and cluster appartement, someone is always there in case of emergency.
The volunteers of CPARC seem to be there mainly for support of their clients. They visit with their clients and the interactions are those of friends instead of, for example, nurse and patient. They know what is happening in each other’s lives and seem to be genuinely interested in that. The majority of the people with disabilities who are a part of CPARC appear to be independant and with few exceptions capable of taking care of themselves. However, the volunteers do perform certain services that are helpful to their clients. They make sure they are taking their medecine, have good personal hygeine, make them dinner and help with any normal household repairs.
My interactions with the clients of CPARC would have personally impacted them as meeting a new friend. The time I spent with them was a social visit. We talked about the details of our lives, such as family, work and boyfriends. We also watched movies and talked about, to an extent, pop culture. I think it may have been exciting for them to meet a new person, as it is for all of us, but once the intial introductions were over, they seemed to lose interest and go back to what they were originally doing. However, they were eager to show me their rooms and to discuss what was new in their lives. The time I spent with them seemed to have a greater impact on myself than on them. They helped me to understand how ill-informed cultural assumptions are and that people with disabilities are people with real feelings and different personalities and shoud be treated as such.
The problems the people who utilize CPARC face in “normative” society are those similar to the problems the elderly face. People tend to see them without really seeing them. In other words, people will notice that they are in public, but not openly acknowlege their presence. People tend to treat them as a nuisance instead of an active part of society. Because they look, speak and behave differently from what is expected, the clients of CPARC have difficulty blending in to “normative” society. They have problems performing the most basic of activities, such as making dinner and remembering to take their medecine or to taking a walk without a cane or wheelchair. Unfortuntately, this makes them conspicuous enough in public for people to take notice and then pretend that they are not there.
This experience connects to my work in this class because it is a real life example of the theories and cultural assumptions we have been reading. The preconceived notions I had about people with disabilites were the exact cultural assumptions we read and with CPARC, I have realized they are mistaken. However, even though I am now able to recongnize my feelings, my time with CPARC has not been able to change those feelings. Each time I visited, I felt more comfortable, but before, during and after my service hours, I still felt the same annoyance, dread and then guilt for even having those feelings.