Growing up, the value of community was given importance. My parents have always established and maintained close links with our extended family, their local communities, work communities, church communities and more recently, global networks. In December we celebrated my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. It was great being at the party and catching up with all of their friends, many of whom have been a part of their life, and in turn my life for a very long time.
Events of recent years have also really reminded me of the importance of family. It has been great having support from immediate family members, but also from my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents and extended relatives – some who we have never had much to do with prior to the arrival of Claire.
I have always enjoyed making new friendships, but I also appreciate and value friendships from long ago. One of my oldest friends (from Grade One!) and her husband are making their way all the way down to the Gold Coast to share Claire’s special day with us. A number of friends from primary school and high school have also been working hard to help us to prepare for this event.
At university, I made more friends, including many from the USA and beyond when I studied abroad over ten years ago. I cherish their friendships and love it that they check in on how our family is doing and offer words of encouragement for us all. One kind friend even offers to shop for items that I place on my wish list and an unable to easily obtain in Australia!
When I began teaching, my penchant for making friends was no different. I have had the privilege of calling many of my colleagues my dear friends. I meet regularly with an amazing group of friends who started as my colleagues, but we haven’t worked together for many years. Some of these friends have become our greatest supporters. I have worked in amazing schools where community is central and we have appreciated support from colleagues, as well parents, students and the wider school communities.
Matt also had his own friends from before our days together, and we have strengthened many of these friendships as a couple, and also formed many new friendships, particular with our neighbours past and present. While I often complain about the amount of time spent chatting on the street and the continuous visits we have at our home from the current street crew, I will admit that I enjoy the sense of community that has been formed and I am very grateful for the support that we have had, particularly in times of emergency.
Last year, as our journey into the special needs’ world began, I was amazed at the immediate sense of community that was felt in many of the groups of which we unexpectedly became a part. At a time when we have relied on the support and advice of others, we were able to find people all over the world who were willing to help – some via Facebook, others in local groups, and some through their willingness to share their own experiences and stories through their blogs.
There are many circles of friends in my life. Many friends have come and gone, as often happens. I have been so humbled by friends who have become practically strangers through disconnections over time, who have stepped forward and offered their support to our family through words of encouragement, financial support, the purchase of tickets, and other offers of assistance when they have heard about our beautiful daughter, Claire Matilda.
As we prepare for The Day on the Deck for Claire, we have been introduced to a whole new community of people who want to offer their support. I want to be clear that the support we receive has taken many forms. Posted words of encouragement when we share an update of Claire’s development, a phone call from a friend ‘just checking in’, recommendation of a therapy or service that might be of benefit to our family, and sharing Claire’s story and information about Cri du Chat with even more people are just some of the ways that we have been supported. We realise that not everyone is in the position to attend Claire’s fundraising day or to offer financial assistance. We totally understand what it is like to have limited funds and we would have found it a difficulty to financially support anyone else even before we were unexpectedly down to one income for longer than expected. Your financial support is not something we have ever expected. We are so grateful for the financial support that we have been given, but every bit of support and encouragement that comes our way is very much welcomed.
I have recently had a number of people who are interested in following Claire’s updates and news of her blog updates and have requested to be added as personal friends on Facebook. I’m a fairly open and sharing person, but I also feel that the time has come to separate my personal page a little from the amazingness that is Claire Matilda ☺. When the Day on the Deck is over, our need for support will not be. We are going to need our supporters for many years to come! So…. If you are a Facebook user, we would love for you to visit a new page that I have just created. I’ve called it:
Whilst a subtle difference, I have not called it a Community for Claire Matilda. I really thought about this a lot. I want this page to be a space where Claire’s achievements can be followed by those who wish to stay in touch. I want it to be a place through which we can gain messages of support. I also want it to be a place where we can provide support for other people in Claire’s community (therefore our community).
So, please head on over and help us grow our community of support, the Community of Claire Matilda.