“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Charles Clark, and I’m here to advocate for more Medicaid waivers for people with disabilities.
I received a DD waiver that allows me to live at L’Arche and to be more independent. L’Arche supports me with shopping, travel, staying connected to friends, and going to my doctor’s appointments. Living at L’Arche I’m treated with respect – I’m an adult and I want to be treated like one – not like a 5-year-old. I help teach people how to love one another and how to respect others. I’m asking you to fully fund the priority 1 urgent waiver waiting list so that others with developmental disabilities have the care that they need.
Thank you. Let’s get to work.”
–Charles Clark at the Arlington Town Hall Meeting January 3rd, 2019
Story by Eva-Elizabeth Chisholm, L’Arche GWDC Human Service Leader
I’ve known Charles for the last 7 ½ years and had numerous opportunities to participate with him in advocating for the needs of people with disabilities in Virginia and across the US. We’ve driven to Richmond to meet with state legislators. We’ve walked the halls of Capitol Hill and even met with a former vice presidential candidate in the elevator. I struggle with nerves when giving speeches or presentations in public – Charles loves it. We complement and support each other well. Charles’ voice is familiar – it is loud and it is strong and it carries with it a fierce protection for the people he loves and the people the world often overlooks or forgets. It is a voice that will tremble with emotion and roll with laughter, quiet with compassion and challenge with deep questions.
Because we’ve spoken together on many occasions, I was anticipating what Charles might like to say as part of his speech at a local town hall meeting last week. We were putting notes together about our particular asks (more Medicaid waivers in Virginia, please!) and I asked “Charles, what would you like them to know about living in L’Arche and why it’s important to you?” I was not anticipating what he said next:
“Living at L’Arche I’m treated with respect – I’m an adult and I want to be treated like one – not like a 5-year-old.” One sentence said so much to me – summing up a lifetime of experiences. He went on to share about the ways that he values his role in community – the ways he learns from others and also the ways that he gets to teach others what it means to be loved and to be family. I was struck with the humility and strength of this brother of mine – the one who will often tell me that I’m “an old lady” and he’s “twenty-five” while I laugh and say “twenty-five plus.”
On January 3rd, we gathered to speak with several delegates and senators representing Northern Virginia at the Arlington County Town Hall meeting. This was the first year that members of L’Arche GWDC participated, speaking in partnership with the Arc of Northern Virginia. It was exciting to be in a packed room – several advocating for people with disabilities, but also others speaking about community mental health – prison reform – voting rights – and countless other issues important to them. In total, Charles and I spoke for about 5 minutes asking to see an increase in funding for the Medicaid waiver program – giving adults and children, many who have been on the waiver waitlist for years, access to much needed supports and services in their communities. Now we wait to see what will happen – we follow-up with our delegates and senators and we continue to ask for the supports that we and others need.
Interested in how you can join L’Arche in advocating with and for people with disabilities in DC and Virginia? Contact Eva-Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org