As soon as I heard these words, I felt like it captured the essence of why belonging matters and I wanted to share them with you as we approach World Cerebral Palsy Day...
  • “I have so much joy and gratitude for being the person that I am.” ~ Marco Pasqua

  • “My cerebral palsy is mainly my gift and sometimes a challenge.” ~ Melissa Lyon

Wouldn’t it be great if we all felt that way about ourselves... having joy and gratitude for who we are with all our strengths and foibles? Rather than feeling stigmatized or ashamed about what makes us different, what if we saw our differences as gifts that are sometimes a challenge?

I heard Marco Pasqua’s and Melissa Lyon’s words while participating in the Cerebral Palsy’s Association of BC virtual annual general meeting. I have been blessed to be working with the association for the last year and a half as the consultant for the Vancouver Island Cerebral Palsy Awareness project

The project began just as we all started to shelter in place 18 months ago. And what a journey it has been! We started by working with diverse local partners to identify youth and young adults living with cerebral palsy (CP) from a variety of backgrounds, abilities and regions on Vancouver Island. We then connected with them and invited them to our signature Belonging Matters Conversations process.

Stories and insights from those living with cerebral palsy

During these community conversations, these young adults living with cerebral palsy shared stories about belonging and not belonging, their priority challenges and helped craft a 5-year project plan.

Listen to Patrick Aleck talk about how these Belonging Matters Conversations helped him during the pandemic:

Creating connections during the pandemic:

Here’s more from Patrick Aleck about his experience:

On what roadblocks he overcame:

On how Belonging Matters is a changemaking experience:

The gems that were generated during the Belonging Matters Conversations can serve us all as we build a culture of belonging. Check out these Belonging Matters posters (see our previous article) that share the key highlights around how to address ableism and stigma

Now, together with this CP leadership group and input from health, education and service sectors across Vancouver Island, we are busy collaboratively working on creating local strength-focused and culturally safe resource guides for families living with cerebral palsy on Vancouver Island.

World Cerebral Palsy Day: October 6th

There is a huge gap in services for children and youth with cerebral palsy. October 6th is World CP Day and I invite you to join me in learning more about cerebral palsy and helping raise awareness to turn this awareness into action:

  • What is Cerebral Palsy? (Check out this great one-page overview by CPABC and please share with others.)

  • Check out ways you can learn about and participate in World CP Day as well contribute to help serve the over 10,000 British Columbians living with CP at

Leave a comment:

I’d love to hear from you... How do you foster more joy and gratitude for yourself and those around you? How do you turn what makes you unique and different into your unique gift? How do you support others to turn what makes them different into their unique gift they give back to the world? Share a comment below.

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About the Author

Jessie Sutherland

An international speaker, trainer, and consultant, Jessie Sutherland works with organizations and communities to engage diversity, build belonging and ignite intercultural collaboration. Her approach creates sustainable community change that effectively addresses a wide range of complex social problems.

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