Making Space for Belonging: The Case of the Amputee Coalition
By Guest Blogger Kate Anderson, Communication and Events Manager, Amputee Coalition
Everyone needs to feel like they belong – it is a common experience of being a social human. But, what do you do when you have a trait relatively uncommon in the midst of a large society? What do you do when you have a disability and feel like you are alone?
What you do is you make space for belonging! You carve out a niche in the world and make it your own. Within the space you invite like people in to share your commonalities without having to feel different.
Within a communities’ space people are often able to be free of the stigma and scrutiny. They are able to group together, find strength in numbers and use this strength as a source of inspiration for social change.
This is exactly what the Amputee Coalition has done. From a small collection of amputee support group leaders who came together 30 years ago, the Amputee Coalition, a national donor-supported nonprofit, has grown to be a space of belonging, a source of empowerment through education and advocacy and an important resource center for every single person who has experienced limb loss.
The organization connects like people who have limb loss together through a unique and powerful peer visitor program. Through this program experienced members from the limb loss community meet with new amputees, offering support, encouragement and connecting them with educational materials. Simply put, peer visitors make sure you are not alone.
The Amputee Coalition also hosts a unique youth camp that empowers children with limb loss to make connections with others like them, try adaptive sports and recreation and experience the acceptance of a safe space created by counselors who also have limb loss. We make this camp available to children ages 10 to 17 so that they feel connected and part of a community that they will be a part of for the rest of their lives.
Limb Loss Education Days are another space of belonging created by the Coalition. These educational days are regional events focused on education and offering opportunities to try adaptive sport and recreation activities. The regional size group allows for intimate question and answer sessions and up-close-and-personal interactions with speakers, recreation leaders, organizations and companies that serve the community and others with limb loss.
Perhaps the most important space of belonging created by the Amputee Coalition is the National Conference. Held every year this conference creates a safe space where nearly a thousand limb loss community members gather together to learn, connect with peers, see the latest technology on exhibit, attend gait clinics and try adaptive sport and recreation. With educational sessions on care giving/family concerns, pediatric issues, technology and living well with limb loss, there is an educational opportunity for everyone!
While these are great examples of spaces of belonging for persons with limb loss, what can you do if you have a different disability and need to find belonging?
Search the internet for organizations that represent people like you! Reach out to them and get involved. If they don’t have a peer support program, a youth camp, regional education days or a national conference, offer to help start one! You’ll be surprised at the feeling of belonging you’ll get just from actively working to create a safe space for yourself and others like you.
Can’t find an organization that is already established that represents you? Start one! If you create the space you will certainly find others with a common bond.
About the Guest Blogger
Kate is responsible for all the aspects of planning, communicating and executing the Limb Loss Education Days Program and the Amputee Coalition National Conference. Kate holds a Master’s degree in women’s studies and as a result holds dearly the concepts of diversity, equality and inclusion in her communications and event planning.