On January 24, the NH-ME LEND cohort and faculty met for a joint session at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. The trainees heard from leaders from both states on how to be heard, advocate and collaborate with state and national leaders on pressing disability issues as they prepare for the upcoming Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. Keynote speaker, Kim Humphrey from Community Connect Maine, presented her family story and discussed the Collaborative Postcard Project, whose goal is to encourage constituents to feel comfortable contacting legislators about issues that they care about.

To learn more about Community Connect Maine visit communityconnectme.org

Alan Cobo-Lewis, NH-ME LEND Co-director, moderated an inspiring panel of community activists, self-advocates, and state legislators. Here are a few highlights!

Invite decision-makers to come to meet you and see your world as you are seeing it. For families, that is really important, because sitting down with a family and hearing what they are going through may be eye-opening and a thing they will remember when they are trying to decide where funds ought to go. That memory, of that actual interaction, is what carries the weight.

Cullen Ryan Executive Director of Community Housing of Maine and Family Member

Remember, it is very important to get personal stories in all of your work.

Tucker Conley, Self-Advocate, Maine (NH-ME LEND 2019)

I am a proponent of education and advocacy and that’s what I am naturally drawn too. I think we are a most effective when we function as a cohesive unit toward common goals. It’s common sense and common sense has become a lost art. There is a lot of footwork involved in getting our name out there, getting people to know who we are, what we are doing.

Marco Orlando, Speaking Up for Us, Maine

Identify your champions in your communities, in your legislature and continue to work with them, to educate them and to bring them along. Find those people who are willing to step up in their caucuses and say that this is an important issue and we need to focus on it!  I would like to reiterate to personalize your letters and emails. That’s when I really read the message and respond individually. That’s when I have more personal investment in that issue.

Rebecca Millett, Maine State Senator

Developmental disability issues are truly a bipartisan issue. Be thoughtful of that, tell your story, and approach with solutions.

Joelle Martin, NH State Representative and Co-founder of Milford Thrives (NH-ME LEND 2015)

You are the people you have been waiting for. I encourage you to meet with people who have diverse thought, people who don’t share the same perspectives as you do. Right now, on the national and state level, it seems many legislators have lost the idea that we are in it together. I believe it will require a new generation of leaders to get them outside of their echo chambers. We have to forge relationships with people, suspend our judgment and seek to understand where they are coming from. It is only when you have diverse thoughts, that leaders, like you, can move the needle forward and really solve problems. So, go do it!

Jennifer Bertrand, Director of Community Partnerships at Community Crossroad, (NH-ME LEND 2015)