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Building Confidence, Making Choices, and Defining Herself

Posted June 04, 2013

Building Confidence, Making Choices, and Defining Herself

Deanna won’t let others define who she is or what she can (or cannot) accomplish. That wasn’t always the case. But because her parents helped her acquire skills for independence, and because LEAP helped her develop self-confidence and choose a job she loves, Deanna has overcome limitations imposed by others and today is a highly accurate and very valued data entry clerk at Cleveland’s Habitat for Humanity.

A consumer with the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Deanna had worked with other disability employment agencies that placed her in positions in banks and grocery stores. But she prefers working at Habitat because she knows the agency helps people in need. She also likes working with LEAP, she said, because “this is the first time I was able to choose where I wanted to work.”

Deanna works in Raiser’s Edge, a fundraising software program. She was taught by someone who has since left the Habitat, and so now she trains others. She’s also helping prepare a manual customized to Habitat’s needs.

“Training others makes me feel good, to be able to help someone else,” she said. Then, with a bit of ironic satisfaction, she added, “Also, I’m training supervisors, so that makes me feel good to know something they don’t know.”

From her desk near the reception window, Deanna works diligently while absorbing everything happening around her. By listening to the receptionist’s conversations, for example, she learned about Habitat’s mission and wrote a poem, “A Place to Call Home.” She printed copies, framed them, and gave them as Christmas gifts to her office friends. She’s been writing poetry regularly since she took a creative writing course at age 12.

“Writing helps me express myself, to express my feelings,” she explained.

Beverly Kliber, LEAP’s site supervisor at Habitat, realized that writing was key to developing Deanna’s self-confidence.

“When Deanna started at Habitat, she was very, very shy,” Kliber said. “She didn’t talk very much. When a Habitat employee would ask her a question, she would answer with a word or two. So one of her goals was to write me notes about her feelings or when she had a bad day. Now when someone asks her a question, she answers in sentences! She doesn’t have to write me notes anymore. She has become her own self-advocate.”

One of Deanna’s poems, “I Was Born Different,” reflects early experiences that contributed to her lack of self-confidence. Asked about that poem, she speaks sadly about being ostracized in school and in her Girl Scout troop. But she knows those times are in the past, and that she has surpassed the limited expectations others placed on her.

“I worked to prove to myself that I’m better than what everyone said. I was able to overcome the nightmare of being hated all the time,” she said.

Deanna recently moved into her own condominium, where she lives independently with the help of a care giver and is enjoying choosing her own television shows. In her spare time, in addition to writing poetry -- nearly 400 of her poems are collected at voicesnet.com – Deanna competes in Special Olympics in soccer and track and field. She recently took second place in her age group in the 100-meter dash. How did she do it? She answers in a matter-of-fact way.

“I don’t have mobility in my ankles so it’s hard for me to get started, but once I do, I get my stamina and speed up when everyone else slows down. That’s how I win.”

That sounds like a strategy not only for races, but also for life.

I Was Born Different

Some people ask questions,

While others walk away.

Some people stare

And let others snicker.

I was born different!

Some people talk

And others turn heads.

Some people point.

Others just laugh.

I was born different!

My fingers don’t straighten

And elbows are bent.

My ankles are weak

And my back is curved.

I was born different!

I’ve had therapy since infancy:

With splints on my wrists,

A cast on my foot,

And thick glasses covering my eyes.

I was born different!

I never had many friends.

I used to be shy,

But not anymore.

I can talk up a storm.

I was born different.

Oh how I love to read and write!

I’m a Special Olympics’ athlete.

Figure skate no more;

Now have bowling and track

And basketball too!

Just look at my medals!

So what if I was born different!

A Place to Call Home

Having a place to call home

is everyone’s dream.

Unfortunately
there are some who can’t afford it.

We have families of six
living in one-room apartments.

Houses are falling apart
and are filled with mold.

These people only want
a place to call home.

Having a place to call home

is a true necessity.

Unfortunately,
some people have nowhere to turn.

Families are suffering,
because they are cramped in small quarters.

They all really need
a place to call home.

Having a place to call home

is a gift from God.

Unfortunately,
not everyone has that luxury.

Habitat for Humanity
is here to make dreams come true.

More Cleveland families
have a loving place to call home.