Changing Lives by Telling Stories

Changing Lives by Telling Stories

New Brunswick Association for Community Living

Boy selecting clothes - Canadian Association for Community Living CACL - Inclusion

Fredericton, New Brunswick, CanadaNew Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL) was founded in 1957 by a group of parents whose children weren't permitted to attend public schools due to their intellectual disabilities.

Knowing that their children were capable of learning, those parents formed an organization that works on behalf of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. NBACL supports families and provides training and education, inclusive recreation, leisure opportunities, and much more to roughly 1,000 people at any given time.

Executive Director, Krista Carr, was concerned that members of the community were supporting NBACL merely because they thought it was a "good cause."

"We had lots of people who participated in events, but they didn't leave knowing who we were, and they didn't stay engaged in other ways," Carr says. "In terms of people who actually gave because of who we were, there were five."

Recognizing that NBACL needed to expand its reach beyond those five loyal donors, Carr began pursuing the Benevon Model.

"The PR piece of it really intrigued me—learning how to get our story out there. We had no money to do that. If we had had the money, we would have been putting it into programming," she says.

Throughout its four years working with Benevon, NBACL has been working to tell its story. One way that's accomplished is through the "Changing Lives" Point of Entry tour.

Carr says that for herself and her team, the tours have been the biggest challenge, and the biggest benefit.

"We struggled with how to communicate our mission because the work we do isn't tangible, like providing a women's home, for instance. We decided that we had to paint a better picture visually."

Figuring out how to paint that picture has been difficult, as the team has had to reconcile the need for live testimonial with the fact that many of the individuals NBACL supports often have difficulty communicating. They have experimented with various methods, including the use of audiotapes, working with the people they support to practice their delivery, and having a parent stand next to testimonial speakers for additional support.

One young man with intellectual disabilities now shares his story on the tour. He tells attendees about his life in foster care—being bounced between nine different foster homes in eight years, the abuse he incurred, and how he was heavily medicated for behavioral issues. He also explains how his life turned around when NBACL got involved and helped him to get a life plan in place. He now has a job, an apartment, a car, and a girlfriend.

"It's a heartbreaking yet really moving story," Carr says of the man's testimonial. "It really goes to show that we do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes."

The "Changing Lives" tour has helped NBACL secure board members, volunteers, and committee members.

Those individuals have gathered at the organization's four Ask Events, which have raised a collective $500,000 and helped NBACL gain 370 people in its annual giving society. "Compared to the original five!" Carr points out.

"One of the things that I love most is the 'wow' factor for people," Carr says of the Ask Events. "It's the use of the video that's really successful because people really get to see the individuals we're talking about. They hang around after the event and just say, 'Wow, I had no idea about the work you do!'"

When asked what is the best thing to come out of working with Benevon, Carr is quick to respond that it's being able to share the story of NBACL.

Client with support person

"We couldn't tell our story before," she says. "We're a lot better now at talking about who we are and what we do. Telling our story has helped us gain public awareness and donors that we never would have had before, and way more of them. At the end of the day, the people that we support aren't going to have better lives unless the community understands what the issues are, and are willing to do something about it."

These organizations have generously contributed their stories with the understanding that our readers will not contact them directly. Instead, please contact us with your questions. Thank you for your consideration.

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