Month: May 2015

FUNDING UPDATE

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Rickey and Video Game-1Rickey spends much of his day playing video games at home.

I am very grateful for the generosity of those who have donated to my project “Real Stories, Real People”I will use these funds to create a publication that will be distributed to the public and Georgia policymakers free of charge. This publication will include the photo essays I am creating about individuals who are living with a developmental disability (DD) and their families and information about DDs. I have embarked on this project because Georgia is in a state of crisis as it pertains to funding and providing supports to individuals with a DD. There are over 7,500 people on the waiting list for a Medicaid waiver in Georgia and this past legislative session our policymakers appropriated funds for only 75 additional waivers. What this means is that people like Rickey Armstrong (blog post from April 14) risk loosing their lifeline to the community because they do not have the supports in place to ensure their success. Rickey has a job at Golden Corral, 12 hours a week, but has come close to loosing his job because he cannot consistently get to work. His family does not own a car, there is no public transportation in his community and it is difficult to rely on neighbors for a ride. If Rickey had a Medicaid waiver he would have access to supports that would provide transportation to work and supports to assist him in developing the skills he will need in order to live an independent and integrated life in his community. Without funding for supports, Rickey could potentially end up sitting on his couch for 12 hours a day playing video games. This is not a life.

Please support my project so I can be the voice for the thousands of people in Georgia who are living with a DD and who are in dire need of funding for supports. Educating the public and Georgia policymakers is paramount in creating change. You can help! To make a tax-deductible donation please connect to the link below.

http://www.realstoriesrealpeople.org/donate/

Honoring a Legacy

Donald and tattoos-1I

In my last blog post I introduced you to Donna Armstrong, a grandmother who has been raising her three grandsons for 19 years. Despite the many challenges she has faced, she has persevered and has been successful in raising  three wonderful young men, including 24-year-old Rickey who is living with a developmental disability. The second time Ms. Armstrong was diagnosed with breast cancer was especially frightening for her 20-year-old grandson, Donald (on right) and daughter, LaKisha (on left).

When my grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time it was kind of heartbreaking because it was a crucial moment in my life. I was about to graduate from high school. It was very difficult for me to think about the situation and imagine what it would be like if she didn’t survive. I thought about how I could still have her around if something happened to her.  So I thought why not get a tattoo, something she would appreciate, something to keep her legacy going. Therefore, I went and got the tattoo. It hurt a lot but love hurts.”

Donald

Shortly after Donald got his tattoo, LaKisha got hers.

A Courageous Woman

Donna Armstrong

Ms. Armstrong keeps an eye on her grandsons on the basketball court from the kitchen table.

Rickey and Reggie

Rickey (right) with brother, Reggie.

In a post from April 14th, I shared Rickey’s story about his job at Golden Corral. This post is about Donna Armstrong, the courageous and dedicated woman who raised her grandson, Rickey. Before Ms. Armstrong took custody of five-year-old Rickey and his two younger brothers she had been in a relationship and was getting ready to get married.

“He had been there all this time, while the babies had been born, sitting at the hospital with me, changing diapers. But as soon as I got custody of them, it was a different thing. So when he left it was just me and those babies, no job, no income, no transportation, no nothing, just me and the babies. I couldn’t work because there was no one I could trust to watch them. So I had to wait for federal assistance, welfare and food stamps to kick in. I got these babies in May, I didn’t get food stamps until September. I got no money until October. That was the lowest part of my life. Knowing that I had the responsibility for those kids and seeing no resources coming.”

Since that time, 19 years ago, Ms. Armstrong has successfully raised three boys single handedly. She has survived breast cancer twice and has undergone brain surgery that impaired her short-term memory. Despite these challenges Ms. Armstrong has always been there for her grandsons and still is.

The hard part now it is that they are growing up and becoming more independent. The area we live in isn’t the best. Like a lot of times when they go to the basketball court, I sit here. That’s why it is my favorite spot. I can hear when something’s going on. Like I can hear, “Yeah, yeah, I made a basket.” But if there is a mess going on, someone is trying to fight, their tone gets different. Just being a mama I get tuned in. I’ve got three of them so that’s when I’m going up there to see what is going on. That’s the most difficult, like with any parent, turning them loose and giving them that independence. You just have to have your faith and belief that what you’ve told them and taught them will stay with them. Because when they leave out this door I’m sitting right here. The young men have to find their way, but there is too much out here you don’t want to just turn them loose.”

At the completion of my interview with Ms. Armstrong I asked her what she hoped to portray and share with others. This was her response:

“We have had challenges and obstacles in our way that could have really kept us from being a family and staying together as a family unit but I’m a praying woman and I believe in the Lord. It has been my faith that has carried me through. It’s been just me and the three of them. The four of us together is like a fist. We have to stick together. When one can’t do then the others gotta come and wrap their arms around them and keep them right there. When one ain’t got, then we got to see what the other one got. If there ain’t but one piece of bread then it gets cut up into four pieces. It’s just that simple. But they know about family. I’ve instilled that in them. There is nobody but us. I’ve given all that I can give them.”