With, Not For.

A Deaf Black man wearing glasses looks neutrally at the camera while holding a hand lettered sign declaring “NOTHING about us without US.” The man wears denim overalls and has a black and white beard, septum piercing, and hair pulled back with a bandana. The background features a vibrant mural of a Black woman looking down.

With, not For. That is a power statement and one that is used frequently here at Values into Action. It’s the cornerstone on which the work we do is supported. The collaborative model works to bring everyone to the table. This allows people to forge a path into a space where once hidden voices have value.

“With, not For” leaves room for fresh ideas and exploring all options. Creativity and innovation. Brainstorming and problem-solving. When a team works together, everyone has a space at the table without fear that anyone’s chair will be taken away.

“With, not For” builds trust. “What do you think?” “What do you want to do?”

“What would you like to try next?”

“With, not For” builds confidence. Working alongside someone makes them feel supported while still allowing self-direction.

Participants and their loved ones might not have experienced this type of collaboration before. It may take time to get used to it. However, leaving room for growth also leaves room for discovering one’s true potential

When introducing “With, not For,” this opens up to the idea of choice. Once Participants understand that they are in control of what happens, how it happens, and the pace of which things happen, they can begin to see a future full of choices.

“Wow what an idea to have a choice in my future, I can live on my own and work and be a part of my community.” This concept is attainable for everyone even if they were told that a group home or institution was the only choice. Having control of one’s life and being able to create the future you want is a human right.

Working “With, not For” someone provides the opportunity to walk alongside them while they make this journey.

The Values Into Action Pennsylvania Housing Resource Team collaborated to offer this blog article. Members of this team include Breanna Comstock, Nemesis Vidro Casiano, Tylin Colston, Juwanna Scott and Becka Hoover.

Photo credit: Disabled And Here (Disabled And Here project page)

This photo was taken by Gritchelle Fallesgon. The background mural’s artist is Lliam Werproc.