Our Mission is to create and support relationships between community volunteers and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities so that all are heard, empowered and fully included in the community. We strive to engage all members in opportunities that enhance quality of life.
What is Citizen Advocacy?
Where we have been and where we are going
OCCA has traditionally focused on developing and supporting one to one relationships between community volunteers and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities since its inception in 1988. Over that time period we have matched over one hundred individuals with disabilities (which we refer to as "Partners") and volunteers (whom we refer to as an "Advocates"). The Advocates and Partners form a relationship that involves friendship, mentoring and advocacy. In many cases this relationship has lasted for decades. While we still continue to recruit volunteers for these partnerships, we are also acutely aware of how covid has changed the way people interact. It has become extremely difficult to find volunteers and we have a growing waiting list of people who are looking for matches. Many of our volunteers and their disabled Partners are at risk for covid complications and have been very cautious about interacting in the community. Members who live alone found themselves even more isolated and lonely. In order to bring people out of isolation, reduce loneliness and increase connections, OCCA is changing the way we operate.
Many of our members are not experienced and skilled in using technology. While schools and non-profit organizations are using Zoom for meetings and activities, we have been slower to get up and running with technology because of the learning, physical and financial barriers many of our members experience. We are teaching people to use email, zoom and social media. We are assessing their access to computers and the internet and beginning to hold meetings online. We hope to be able to conduct activities online for our members over the course of the next year and help them obtain the necessary technology.
OCCA has been holding quarterly events over the last few years (see our Events page for pictures!). These events focused on a whole health approach and included cooking classes, movement class, arts and crafts and community activities. They often were large groups in close quarters, with no social distancing. In an effort to bring people together during this time of covid and increase socialization and physical activity, we are embarking on creating adventures in healthy living that includes small group, socially distanced outside an online activities. As the covid restrictions are lifted, we will resume indoor activities.
We are looking toward workshops/club/class models, understanding that our members have a wide variety of physical and intellectual skills and challenges, health concerns and varied interests and hobbies. In addition, our current age range for Advocates and Partners is 18-90. We also need to provide social connections and support to the growing list of members who are waiting for volunteers with whom to be matched.
Our goal is to bring people out of isolation and provide the connections and friendships everyone needs in order to live a healthy life. OCCA has very low overhead. We do not have an office. We only have a part-time executive director (who works remotely) and a volunteer board. Our budget is small. We get funding from towns in Orleans County, donations and small grants. We depend on the generosity of the people of Orleans County to keep us going.