Presenting… Tiana!

Our friend Gil invited us to think about the importance of being “in the camera,” and inspired us to invite others to take their turn. We are delighted to introduce you to Tiana!

By John Guido

Do you remember the photo contest that was launched by the “Mon ami Gil” series last spring?

Our friend Gil invited us to think about the importance of being “in the camera.” Gil embraced his professional photo shoot. It allowed him to shape and experiment with how his image is presented to the world.

Gil inspired us to invite others to take their turn. We are delighted to introduce you to Tiana, the first of two individuals with intellectual disabilities selected for a session with a professional photographer.

Tiana’s photo shoot

A professional photo shoot is a wonderful opportunity for an individual to shine, to present themselves in many poses, moods, and colours, revealing the unique and beautiful person that they are. This is particularly important for persons from marginalized communities who may not have seen positive representations of their communities in the wider culture.

When everyone, regardless of their background, age, or ability, has an opportunity to express their true selves, we will create a society that celebrates the unique gift of each person and the rich diversity of our human family.

Read also: Listening to and amplifying the voices of marginalized people

Tiana’s Thoughts

Why did you want to participate in the photo contest?

Oh Hi, I just saw Mon ami Gil video with my mom. and I thought he looks cool. I love his photo shoot. And I just thought it would be similar to him that I could have fun getting photos.

How did you feel before your photo shoot?

I felt a little nervous but yes I’m excited too.

What did you find difficult about being photographed?

It wasn’t too bad. I actually liked it.

Did you learn something about yourself?

I learned that I can be myself and that feeling of comfort with my look. I learned I love to model fun clothes. I learned I love to have fun with my family and friends with the camera.

Did you learn something about others?

I think so. Like I learned that about being myself and having fun with others. I was surprised when I saw the pictures. I’m surprised that I look so like me being a teenager.

Would you do it again?

Yes please. I feel free. I am away from high school commands. I’d be happy to do it again. I'm so thankful.

Dan, Tiana and Sandra Kirkegaard

Photo above: Dan, Tiana and Sandra Kirkegaard

From Sandra, Tiana’s Mom

We are so thankful for this amazing opportunity our daughter Tiana had.

It was such a joy to see her flourish in front of the camera. Tiana loved every single moment, especially when she was ‘ready and on’ as the camera started clicking.

She thrived when three people she loves that came to support her during the photo shoot called out to her, to encourage and help inspire her to shine.

One of the things I particularly loved as her mother, was seeing how natural she seemed in front of the camera, along with a new-found strength as she stood in a place of confidence, gentleness and authenticity.

Another precious part of all of it, was to watch her view the photo gallery. She giggled and squealed. She commented on each photo and expressed such delight!

We thank those who helped put the photo shoot together.

We are thankful to each one… from the photographer, to those who took Tiana shopping so she could choose clothes she wanted, to the advice givers, and to those who came to the photo shoot!! (Thanks Leticia and Laurie!)

Thanks to the Mon Ami Gil crew who set up the contest. Thanks to the L’Arche Canada Communications Team and to the sponsor of the contest.

In closing, we would like to say thanks to the ‘mini-village’ who helped make this dream come true for Tiana.

A Hero Behind the Scenes

Beyond firefighters, medical staff, social workers and police officers, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that there are even more heroes among us. Truck drivers, grocery store clerks, cooks and couriers now rightfully hold an esteemed place in our collective consciousness as they put their health at risk to keep society functioning.

From Hyderabad to Lethbridge Who Would’ve Thought?

After Roop Chittineni finished high school in his hometown of Hyderabad, India he moved to Southern Ontario to pursue a degree in Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo. He liked exercising and thought that if he learned more about the human body he could use that knowledge to elevate everyone’s life experience.

Memory Box: Pinewood Floorboards

What does a set of 1940s floorboards have to teach us about COVID living?

Stepping Up

When Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer stated that non-medical masks limit the transmission of COVID-19, L’Arche Saskatoon’s artsy residents also got to work. Out came the fabrics, scissors, thread and needles. Brock wanted to contribute using two of his greatest assets: his feet.

A Light Ahead

The social distancing caused by the pandemic has been trying. Thankfully, aside from those who have donated their time, money and ingenuity to help L’Arche, there are the health care workers, grocery store clerks and all those on the front line who are helping the L’Arche community get through this crisis. With their help, it won’t be long until the Gathering Place opens again and the community starts making new memories.

Second Life

Kris first met Joanna in L’Arche London, Ontario. She encouraged Kris to join L’Arche, and he did. They lived and worked side-by-side for six years until Kris moved to Nova Scotia. Still, they managed to see each other a few times a year and occasionally called one another about matters of life and faith. But this call was different.

The Gift of Dance

Dance is a profound gift; it’s an artistic expression, a mood enhancer, a workout, a surefire way to impress a date and a form of magic. A dancer can transform into a flower, a lion or their favourite pop star. Above all, dance is an act of joy. (We dare you to wiggle around for a minute and not feel happier than you were before.) The gift of dance, and all it provides, has found its way into L’Arche.

Life’s Tough Obstacles

It was late June. A park in Edmonton had been reserved. Food was stacked on picnic tables. Local students of all ages were dressed in taekwondo uniforms, preparing for their annual Break-a-thon. The Break-a-thon is an innovative fundraiser where martial arts students showcase their skills by breaking boards. For each broken board, donations are pledged and raised for L’Arche.

Taking our place in the inclusion movement

It is an important time for the accessibility and inclusion movement in Canada and the world, and L’Arche Canada is developing our capacity to take our place.

Silent encounter with the “man who repairs women”

Denis Mukwege begs us empathetically to remain attentive, to listen deeply to what is inherent in our human condition: our sensitivity and vulnerability.