Learning from others – while growing in friendship

Learning from others – while growing in friendship

Above: On March 23, L'Arche members Stacey Howe and Rachel Vander Vennen participated in a panel discussion called "Women Driving Diversity in the Workplace" at the inaugural Empowering Women in Business conference. In frame are, from left, Katie Herrington of Chroma NB, Tavia Han of Saint John Newcomers Centre, Rachel, and Stacey.

When the event planners of the inaugural Empowering Women in Business conference approached me to speak on their “Women Driving Diversity in the Workplace” panel, I agreed on the condition that someone with lived experience of a disability could join me as the lead voice, and I in more of a support role. 

There was one person who immediately came to mind to ask to join me: Stacey, an artist at Creative Connections. 

In the weeks leading up to the March 23 event, Stacey and I got together to discuss how we would approach the panel, and what part of her experience felt authentic to share. 

Stacey generously shared her perspective and experience of some challenges she faced accessing post-secondary education as a disabled person – after years of advocacy to get accepted, she excelled in her program – and what’s made some of her employment opportunities over the years so successful. 

The discussion was insightful, with responses touching on the experience of several groups: newcomers, low-income families or individuals, gender-diverse folks and people with disabilities.

It was an important opportunity to amplify the voices of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups. 

Through this experience, Stacey and I got to spend more time together and get to know each other more – we continue to meet up every few weeks for a drink or concert. That deepening of friendship, and the panel itself, is a highlight of the spring for me. 

Our sincere thanks to the organizers of the event, Dragonfly Events, for the invitation to participate in this event, and to the other panelists: Katie Herrington, Board President at Chroma NB; Tavia Han, Pre-Employment Team Manager at Saint John Newcomers Centre; and moderator Dahlia Das, IT Professional, Project Manager and Management Instructor.

And thank you, reader, for doing your part to build a more equitable world for all. It all begins with mutually transforming relationships. 

With gratitude, 

Rachel Vander Vennen
Community Leader & Executive Director

1 comment

Congratulations Rachel and Stacey for taking on this vital engagement, and providing a strong voice for L’Arche!

Bruce Stonehouse

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