Several years ago, we sent out a satisfaction survey to the people we serve and asked a simple, open-ended question at the end that went something like this: Besides the services you receive here at Marrakech (housing, case management, employment, etc.), what else do you feel you need that can make your life better? The overwhelming response was friends, social opportunities, and community outings, especially for those who were living on their own or in family homes where the opportunities for socializing were significantly reduced.
Friends. Having, or not having friends is something that many of us don’t really give much thought to on a day to day basis. That’s probably because we have them. But friendships are important to our overall well-being. Friends support each other emotionally, they are there for each other in times of crisis; they are willing to listen to each other’s point of view and give feedback when needed. Friends choose each other. Everyone deserves the sense of belonging that comes with being chosen by someone else. Several barriers can get in the way of people with disabilities when trying to form friendships - limited opportunities to spend time with peers, lack of understanding regarding the level of support a person may need with helping to fit in or to facilitate an introduction, and the lack of continuity that is required in order for true friendships to form and stabilize over time.
So, in 2004, we started asking ourselves some questions. How can we create real opportunities for happiness and joy to be found? How can we connect people with others in meaningful ways? How can we impact the sense of isolation and aloneness that people feel? How can we improve and empower the lives of the people we serve?
The answers to these questions led to the establishment of a Quality of Life department at Marrakech; a vehicle by which to meet the community integration and connection desires of our consumers as well as those in the community who had limited options for socialization and recreation. Each month a Quality of Life calendar is jam-packed with center and community-based activities. The activities are facilitated by our energetic and enthusiastic Recreation Specialist and include but are not limited to bingo, arts and crafts, movie night, Zumba®, holiday parties, healthy cooking classes, baseball games, amusement park trips, shopping trips to New York and a self-advocacy group, just to name a few.
The Recreation Specialist ensures that participants are fully engaged and have a great time at these events. New activities are planned based on the interest of the consumers who attend. We make sure these activities are kept affordable (an individual activity may cost as little as $4.00 to attend and a club card for a whole month of activities costs $40-$60) so that as many people as possible can access them at some level.
Throughout the month of July, Marrakech will feature our Quality of Life Department in our social media. So, stay tuned to our Facebook page for more to come! In the mean time, if you or someone you know would like more information about our Quality of Life activities, please contact Denise Stevenson at (203) 389-2970, ext. 1105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.