“It all comes down to love” Reflections on our Documentary from People with Disabilities

by Kupenda

A mom and two of her children laying on a couch

“Nothing for us without us.” A long-standing reminder about the importance of including people with disabilities in interventions designed to support them.

With this in mind, we invited our friend Susie Lotharius to host a screening of our “KUPENDA” documentary for a group she runs in Atlanta, Georgia, called Every Voice Matters. Members of this group include people living with autism (like Susie’s daughter, Graciela) who are nonspeaking and use some form of alternative or augmentative communication. Many of their caregivers are also group members. Susie immediately agreed to hosting a screening and arranged her watch party for Valentine’s Day. Here are some reflections and feedback from the attendees (narrated by Susie) which we hope you’ll find interesting. And perhaps even inspire you to host your own watch party!

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Two men and two women sitting in folding chairs

Every Voice Matters members

[Our] watch party was a success! The cinematography was gorgeous, the story was well told and it captured enough of the work you’re doing and how important that work is. We had a decent turnout — around 30 attendees. The link worked like a charm and everything went off without a hitch. I invited the attendees to come together after the film for a discussion, which went well.

There were people from all over the country and Canada in attendance and a few who expressed an interest in hosting their own screening.

There were several autistic adults in attendance including a young man named Liam (20) from Portland who had this to say upon reflection:

“Half of me is feeling that finding others like me and tenacious adults making a difference in lives of people living with disability inspiring. Sometimes I am [not] happy to see all the ways poor countries leave lots of people owning their totally wrong ideas [about disability]. Hearing this story gives me the hope that the world at large can begin to presume competence in all people regardless of their differences.”

I also got this from one of Graciela’s friends. His name is Noah and he is 22.

 “It is humbling to see the scope of their marginalization, being shunned and abandoned. When I think of myself as marginalized in this country, it’s nothing compared to their obstacles.” 

A mom sitting with her son who is using a communication board

Noah using his communication board

There were also several moms of children with disabilities in attendance. The film really spoke to them all, especially my friend in Canada whose daughter has multiple physical and intellectual disabilities.

Noah’s mom had this to share with me after the viewing:

“It was so amazing how it was presented and filmed in addition to the powerful message. And just seeing all of the dedication and selflessness of those called to this cause – mostly the inner beauty SHINING out of all of the ’disabled’ individuals. It’s an innocence and purity despite their struggles…”

My daughter, Graciela (17), who authors the blog Dare to Listen, also provided this feedback,

A teen girl and a woman standing in front of a ca

Graciela with a friend

“It is  so really hard to see the challenges and the serious barriers that individuals with disabilities experience in other parts of the world. I have to say that it is awesome to have a lot of the amazing and supportive people in my life that I have. Because I am loved and supported I can see that my life has value and that I am truly wanted. Have to say that we are lucky to live in the beautiful country that we live in because the support and resources are much more widely available and so trusted. Also I think it would be so hard to live in those conditions with autism because many of the things I need to stay regulated are not so easy to  have access to it seems. A lot of my life I have been making it through each day with the support of my family and I think that not having that support would be hard to survive. 

 Have some things watching this made me think more about like how hard it is to sound many big alarms about the needs of others. I think we are so selfish as human beings and that it is challenging to think about the needs of others. Amazing that we can live this way and be so blind. I loved the documentary and hope that its message is heard and listened to by many. The things given to us by birthplace are simply chance but what is important is that we see the greatness in one another regardless of nationality, ethnicity, race or ability.” 

One of Graciela’s good friends here summed it all up by spelling out:

“It all comes down to love.”

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share the amazing work you all are doing with others!

Take care,

Susie

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Want to host a watch party for your school, family, book club, college, community group or place of worship? Contact us at [email protected] to learn how.

And don’t forget to check out the film’s 2-minute trailer here.


Want to keep updated with Kupenda and Kuhenza’s work? You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. And please also sign up for their monthly newsletter and updates here

If you’re interested in supporting one of the many children they serve, head over to their sponsorship page to learn about how you can make a difference for just $30 / month. You can also help children with disabilities stay safe and healthy during COVID-19 by donating here.


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