Self-advocacy and storytelling workshops exceed high expectations in Vancouver
Kristian Partington

The power of sharing personal experience through the art of storytelling was transferred from motivational speaker and storyteller David Roche to the participants of three storytelling workshops held on March 30 in Vancouver’s Heritage Hall.

The workshops were geared towards self-advocates, youth and families as a confidence-building tool and a means to understanding that every person has a story to share.

Monique Nelson, co-ordinator of family services and communications with posAbilities, helped organize the workshops and says watching the high level of engagement exceeded her high expectations for the day’s success.

“It was a moving experience and I think participants really gained a great deal of benefit from their involvement,” she says.

“People truly felt empowered and through the format of the workshop they were able to share stories that were touching, that were personal, and delightful; it was just a safe and supportive learning environment.”

Once stories were shared, the groups would “debrief’ and discuss how they can be used in terms of advocacy.

David says the key to the success of his workshop format is the sessions are conducted in a safe environment where everyone feels encouraged and acknowledged.

“We tell people ‘your first assignment is not to tell a story — your first assignment is to listen to other people and encourage them to bring out their best,’” says David.

Monique says she saw the sense of comfort put participants at ease and “everybody wanted to share.”

In the self-advocacy workshop, people who’d worked together for years were sharing things about each other that they never knew before, says Monique, and they quickly learned how important it is to share their story and have their voices heard.

Participants in the youth group, she says, “were all over the map, when they came in…but they very quickly turned to following the format, sharing their stories and supporting each other with high-fives of appreciation.”

In the evening, a family group met where people opened up and shared deeply personal fears and hopes in relation to loved ones who have a disability.

No judgment; no expectation; just honest, from-the-heart stories and Nelson says when the workshops ended, though drained from the emotional power of the day, she was “refreshed.”

If you have a story to share, please contact 800-294-0051, ext. 24, or e-mail kristian(at)