In the second half of this year, two interesting events happened.
One was the first major autistic-led autism event in Singapore, the other was a caregiver-led carnival for caregivers with young special needs children.
These two events were started and planned by communities who would typically be seen as ‘patients’ of the state, receiving aid and assistance from the government, SSAs, schools, hospitals and other institutions.
Belonging to the two communities involved and benefiting directly from the events, this is what I hope to share.
1. We started out lonely, lost and confused.
The special needs communities have more support today compared to our past generations (with more schools, employment-bridging services, online and offline resources, support groups, financial assistance and greater awareness).
Yet every family who has been given a diagnosis may feel lonely, lost and confused.
The reason why I bring this up is because we all start from being vulnerable, and this is one reason we come together, to figure out how to manage our vulnerabilities and be better versions of our past selves, despite how some parts of our society perceives our vulnerabilities (and us) as weaknesses.
2. Breaking the boundaries
I once heard from a respected community-builder that people need not be free from weaknesses in order to contribute (my own interpretation).
In both events, some of the volunteers had little or no experience in their volunteer roles.
We learnt how to accommodate each other’s strengths and weaknesses, preferences and communication styles.
The Life After Death event was an eye-opener how autistics and non-autistic allies could adjust their working styles for a common goal. Many of us had not met each other before and only met for the first time on the event day itself.
The caregivers with special needs children organising the Care Carnival 2019, who have limited time to meet face-to-face, coordinated with over 100 partners and volunteers to support over 270 caregivers, using virtual tools such as cloud, emails, website, event app, social media and free-to-use infographic sites.
The key thing is we are not helpless and useless even though we are vulnerable, because we chose to find ways to connect, enable and empower our communities.
Vulnerability (fragility) is connectivity without responsiveness. Responsiveness enables connectivity to lead to opportunity.
If collective action can be employed to address threats, or to take advantage of opportunities, then the vulnerability can be mitigated and outweighed by the benefits.Yaneer Bar-Yam, as quoted in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book “Antifragile”, pg 458.
Regardless of our circumstances, we have an amazing combination of strengths, and we chose to respond by exercising these strengths collectively to see how far we could push the boundaries.
3. Would we have done it anyway?
One inspiring fact about both events is that the key people involved were prepared to run the event with whatever resources they could put together.
This commitment to saying YES! to ‘Would we have done it anyway?’ should be celebrated in itself, in any community effort where volunteers have invested a personal stake to see the project through.
When a critical mass of people come together saying collectively this is what we hope to do, and we commit to doing it, this is an authentic act of community where we put our skin in the game to make things happen, for the benefit of others in the community.
What examples of “we would have done it anyway” have you noticed and/or been a part of?
I encourage us to share what we’ve witnessed to inspire others that “it is possible, because we believed we would make it happen”.