Serving and Empowering with The Arc

According to the World Health Organization, over a billion people (about 15% of the world's population) have some form of disability. Although the term “people with disabilities” sometimes refers to a single population, this is actually a diverse group of people with a wide range of needs. Two people with the same type of disability can be affected in very different ways. Ultimately, the name and the details of the disability are not important. It’s how we treat those with disabilities to make them feel included, valued, and enabled- that is what’s important.

A huge part of this is cultivating a culture where individuals with and without disabilities have equal and reliable access to live healthy lives. Unfortunately, people with disabilities often have less access to health care services and therefore experience unmet health care needs. Health disparities on their own are difficult to pinpoint and tackle; when they exist within a group of people that is often overlooked in public health surveys and reports, it becomes even more difficult to raise awareness about their existence. On top of it all, many people with disabilities struggle to obtain the same opportunities, both health related and otherwise, that adults without disabilities may easily have access to.
The Arc is an organization working to combat all of these unmet needs and services, and many more. With locations all over the country, The Arc provides housing, resources, and opportunities for education, health care, and community involvement to adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. The Arc Jacksonville is composed of 5 group homes and an affordable living neighborhood called "The Village”, and also has a partnership with University of North Florida called the On Campus Transition (OCT) Life Program. This program provides young adults with disabilities services and support that will assist them in successfully transitioning into adulthood and to live a productive life within the community. The Arc is creating a movement from just accepting individuals with disabilities to creating opportunities for them to have healthier, happier, and more successful and engaging lives.

To be healthy, all individuals with or without disabilities must have opportunities to take part in meaningful daily activities that add to their growth, development, fulfillment, and community contribution. During the month of June, our National Health Corps members participated in two Group Service Projects with The Arc: Health Training Day with the young adults of the OCT Life Program and a Health Fair and Field Day with the residents of The Village.

During the Health Training Day, participants grew their lifestyle skills and deepened their understanding of many topics related to home safety. They learned about safely and properly cooking a spaghetti dinner (and made their own!), expiration dates on foods and spoiled products, and how to safely use household chemicals and cleaning supplies. Participants also furthered their own personal development by drawing the lines between personal vs. public body areas, learning more about their own bodies, and practicing communication techniques for healthy interactions and relationships.

During our Health Fair and Field Day at The Village, residents interacted with NHC members while participating in a variety of educational and physical activities! They practiced resolving personal conflicts, learned how to better manage stress and made their own stress balls, and bowled “under the influence” to understand how drugs and alcohol can affect your ability to function. Our members also facilitated a kick ball game and encouraged everyone to participate regardless of their ability levels, promoting inclusion, enhancing overall moral, and demonstrating the importance of recreation and physical activity as well as having fun!
The National Health Corp’s mission to “connect people who need it most with health education and services today, while developing tomorrow’s compassionate health leaders” was truly exemplified through our partnership with The Arc. Through these service projects our National Health Corps members and The Arc residents were able to grow, learn and serve together while also tackling the health disparity within the community of individuals with disabilities.

While serving the residents of The Arc during our Group Service Projects, our members also grew in their understanding of individuals with disabilities, and learned the importance of inclusion and empowerment of many overlooked populations. As The Arc residents participated in their activities and deepened their understanding of their own health and opportunities for growth, they also became more enabled to go out and become leaders for other members of their community. Together, we are fostering a society that looks at individuals with disabilities for their ability, not their disability, while both serving them in the moment and empowering them for the future.








This blog post was written by NHC Florida member, Catherine Kradel.

Catherine serves at the FDOH in Baker County as a Health Educator.