DC J-students help Participation House mark 40 years

Executive director, Michelle Marshall is proud to share silent victories in Durham Region.
Michelle Marshall, executive director at Participation House celebrates their 40 year anniversary with a book of silent victories in Durham Region.

Success stories are meant to be shared. The journalism students at Durham College (DC) and the Participation House Project (PH) of Durham Region worked together to create a book to celebrate Participation House’s 40th anniversary and share the stories of the people they’ve helped.

PH is a non-profit organization located in Whitby. They provide service for people of all ages that have any physical or developmental disabilities. Michelle Marshall, the executive director at PH, got in contact with journalism professor Danielle Harder in late spring to get students who were willing to create a book for PH to raise awareness towards the success stories of whom she calls “Heroes and Champions.” These are people facing individual, systemic or societal challenges. Some individuals have Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or have had a stroke that changed their life forever.

“At the end of the day we exist to support people,” says Marshall. “We felt the best way to celebrate our 40 years was to tell the stories of the heroes and champions that we’ve come across.”

To give titles to the inspiring individuals talked about in the book, Marshall looked up definitions to help. A hero is someone we tend to look up to, we are in awe of or someone we appreciate. The person is remarkable in someway. A champion is similar to a hero, but is sometimes more like a cheerleader. They are encouraging and are often looked to for help or advice by heroes.

Marshall describes the book as a compilation of silent victories that have happened in our community that people might not be able to fully understand, appreciate or acknowledge. One story in the book shares how an active individual with cerebral palsy was determined to find independence when it came to public transit.

The book was completed over the summer and one of the biggest challenge’s students and PH faced during this project was finding the time to sit down and talk with each other to get interviews completed. Marshall says she really appreciates the students for taking the time out of their summer breaks to carry out interviews. But they were still able to accomplish a lot in a short period of time.

Karen Edwards is a third year Journalism-Broadcast and Print student at DC and says one challenge she faced was since readers weren’t able to really see who Edwards’ story is about she let the individual’s personality show through by painting a picture with her writing.

“She was so outgoing and excited to speak to me, that’s not something you always get in journalism,” says Edwards.

Alyssa Erwin is a first year Journalism-Web and Print student who also participated in writing the stories.

“I thought, ‘what better way to help someone than to tell their story’, especially for those who cannot tell their own,” she says.

Erwin says this project was eye-opening for her and she feels that people take a lot for granted without realizing how fortunate we are.

Marshall says this book will be able to touch readers in different ways. The people who are written about get to appreciate what they’ve accomplished in life. Employees at PH will feel proud of what they’ve done to help their heroes and the general public will really get to understand the complexity of the work that PH does. Marshall says after reading these success stories it will help readers appreciate the value of what challenges people with disabilities face and overcome and possibly give a reality check for the simple things we take for granted.

Everyone’s story deserves to be heard. Participation House reminds us to celebrate every one and appreciate the journeys we go through in life. PH welcomes the community to celebrate its 40th anniversary together at the Abilities Centre theatre room on Wednesday, December 9th. The event takes place from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. at 55 Gordon Street, Whitby where the book will be released to the public. Books are available upon request by contacting Christine Dubyk at PH’s administrative office, 905-579-5267 ext. 203.