Community Engagement Comes to Mean a Commitment
March 1, 2010
|Juan and Metro Councilor Robert Liberty explore the sidewalks of Cornelius in wheelchairs|
by David Waffle, Claudia María Vargas, Phillip Cooper, and Dick Reynolds
I was only one month into my new job as city manager of Cornelius, Oregon, when I accepted an invitation arranged earlier by the previous city manager. I bravely said yes, not really knowing what it was about. All I knew was that it involved faculty from Oregon Health Science University (OHSU), it had something to do with children with disabilities, Spanish-English translators were going to be provided, and it was going to be held at a Catholic church. At the least, it was a way to size up the community. I asked the planning manager to go along.
What a fascinating experience that day was then-and for the next three years. This invitation facilitated a commitment to parents and their children with disabilities who often have difficulties obtaining medical services and who have too often been ignored by the community. Along the way, we've breached some of the service gaps, developed community leaders, and even learned to eat Guatemalan chicken pepián.
We also created a process that generated more than 900 letters in support of pedestrian improvements on a busy state highway, found witnesses willing to support our case in discussions with political figures and funding agencies, and provided opportunities for about 50 clinical trainees to gain experience working directly with children with developmental, cognitive, behavioral, and physical disabilities in a community setting, where they usually have to overcome cultural and language barriers. And we have the video to prove it!