Category Archives: Empowerment

Thrive: Empowering Young Women with Disabilities

Massachusetts Easter Seals piloted a program this weekend in Boston called Thrive: Empowering Young Women with Disabilities. The program paired young women with disabilities with women mentors with disabilities. The program touched on a number of different themes that impact young women with disabilities. Some of the workshops included impact ability, Thrive against ableism, media’s depiction of people with disabilities, and health care advocacy. The keynote speaker was Harilyn Rousso and she read excerpts of her book “Don’t Call me Inspirational-A Disabled Feminist Talks Back”. As a woman with a disability myself I was so energized hearing pieces her book and am very excited for it to come out on January 31, 2013. Some of the other programs and individuals involved in the Thrive program this weekend included Impact: Ability, EPIC empowering people for inclusive communities, Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts Patti Panzarino 2012 and Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts Santara Sen 2010.

The Thrive program is something that I wish that I had as a young woman with a disability. Growing up with a disability I didn’t have that many individuals in my life with disabilities and most of my mentors were able-bodied individuals. This program gives a safe place for young women with disabilities ask the hard questions, to figure out what they’re supposed to know and to connect with others with disabilities like themselves.

I tell you being a part of this program was amazing. I got the opportunity to spend a weekend with some of the most strong confident, independent thinkers, empowered, determined, supported, beautiful women with disabilities. I definitely hope that this program is one that Easter Seals continues to support.

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Labyrinth

Across the field

Feel the call

See its presence

Anticipate the mystery

Approach

Listen to the guidance

Cleanse through the sage

Ready with the chimes

Enter

Step slowly, quickly or stop

Go deep, go deeper

Find the inner core

Be aware

Mysteries are within

Baggage is cut loose

Minds are cleared open

The core

Center bring stillness

Awareness comes; confusion passes

Journey out begins

Exiting

Time and space has changed

Mind and spirit are intertwined

Trance is here

Leaving

Steps are quick or slow

Emerge from the depths

Release the trance

Clearing

Distance offers grounding

Friends bring experience

Laughter fills the air

Voice

My inner voice has broken free

Once limited

Once timid

Once silent

My inner voice speaks aloud and questions

Why must I follow you

Why should I be silent

Why can there be no change

My inner voice denies your power and speaks of change

Rules are meant to be broken

Yesterday’s truths are today’s lies

Change starts with a single notion

My voice has joined with others

Together the world is different

Together other paths are visible

Together notions of change are growing

Voice is now

Massive

Strong

Loud

Voice teaches

Strength

Possibilities

Acceptance

Voice is an agent of change

My voice has brought me full circle

Once hidden

Now it represents the masses

My World

I navigate my world unlike you

And yet you watch me with intent

For years I have been baffled by this

Why are you interested in my world?

I see the world as a puzzle

Each task I work out in my mind before

I watch you to see how I should do it differently

A two-step task for you; is six or eight for me

Is your watch of judgement or of wonder?

Your eyes portray a mixture of both

Why does my world hold your interest?

Is the judgement due to fear or ignorance

You hold no understanding and yet you want to

And so you assume the truth

You hold silent when you could speak your questions

That silence sees my world as difficult and unpleasant

When it is simple and beautiful

The wonder you hold keeps my curiosity

Your excitement grows as you watch my steps

Silence fills the room; Did I miss something

No you are merely watching me

Your mind is full of questions and they are wonderful

My answers give truth to the puzzle of my life

No longer must you wonder how; for I am here to show and tell

I saw myself in my own world

And I watched with wonder

How interesting I found the tasks

The puzzle in my mind; I now can see

I watch with intent, what happens next

How interesting it is, I have watched you for years but not myself

I navigate my world unlike you

You watch me with intent

Now I understand this

My world is different, full of surprise and adventure

Why wouldn’t you want to come and see!

The 4th World Youth Taekwondo Camp


Over the last week I have had the chance to experience some fantastic opportunities. I was invited back to South Korea to speak at the 4th World  Youth Taekwondo Camp. There were approximately 300 people from 30 different countries at the camp. Through out the week I was approached by many youth who had seen my story on television and were inspired. I was part of a special lecture series and had the chance to inspire youth.  I had several encounters with the local media far more than I ever expected. I made friendships with Olympic medalists and trained with Taekwondo Masters from all over.  I was also was reminded of my own limitations despite my determination to succeed. Image

Our, myself and Danielle, travel to the camp was long as we had a 14 hour air flight to Korea and then a three-hour bus ride to our hotel in Muju, South Korea. Upon arrival we went straight to sleep for we had a full day training the next day. The arrangements that we had in Muju were beautiful the view of the mountains from the room was amazing. Since we got in so late, breakfast was our first true opportunity to meet the other participates. We meet a mother and son from Jordan and got to hear her son’s journey to the camp which was not the easiest. I also found out that my story had made a difference in his life.

Before we knew it we had arrived at the training facility and gathered together to train.

Throughout the day I had the opportunity to train with the participates. At times I joined the students and trained within the group this was enjoyable and at other times I assisted with the instruction of the students. We did a stretch and kicking drilling (Kyorugi) together. During the first training day I meet an olympic medalist, Tran Hieu Ngan the silver medalist at the 2000 Sydney Olympic games, she was extremely friendly and we hung out the rest of the week. I was also asked to speak with the press. This was quite the experience as I sat in a room with about ten reporters it was like I was having my own press conference. I was in awe about how my story had impacted so many people all over the world.

The following day we had the special lecture series and had the chance to experience Korean Traditional Culture.


Through the special lecture series I was given the chance to speak to the participates about my story. I was also able to inspire hope and enthusiasm in the youth. As speaker I always try to inspire my audience in finding their inner strength. I spoke about how we all have our own challenges and with those we are all here today. Taekwondo is a sport that gives opportunity to the many and what we learn in Taekwondo we can then take and apply to all the parts of our lives.

It really was an honor to speak at the camp. I feel that I made a difference in the lives of these youth. I hope the media coverage that occurred during my visit helps to inspire and reach many more in South Korea and all over the world.

After the lecture series we were given the chance to experience Korean traditional culture. We went to the cultural center and had a traditional meal. We also had a chance to learn about a traditional wedding and Korean drums. We also had a chance to visit a traditional village called Jeonju Hanok. I really enjoyed seeing this cultural side of South Korea. As we were leaving the village there was a presentation of the lion mask dance. This was great to watch as it included the drumming we were shown at the cultural center. 

The following day we returned to our training. In the morning there was Kyorugi training again and I took this time rest as we have had a busy schedule. In the afternoon we had Poomsae (Forms) training during this time I did a demonstration of a Poomsae to the group and joined the instruction. I really enjoyed the Poomsae part of the training. Unfortunately,  at the end of the Poomsae my knee gave out on me. This stopped me from being involved with the Kyukpa (breaking). We also took a trip to the construction site of Taekwondowon and it was amazing to the models and picture come alive.

In the evening our day of culture continued as we had a K-POP dance performance. Then the youth presented folk costumes and had a talent show from their native country. At the end we the demonstration of the flying pungdeung where we wrote our hopes and dreams and let them fly in the sky.

On our last full day we packed everything up and moved ourselves to Seoul. We were on our way to do a Poomsae and Kyukpa demonstration at the Olympic Park. When we arrived they gave me a new dobok with the sleeves removed. We did a short practice and then were given a break. Things were going well and then my knee gave out and I had lots of pain. It was so bad that I couldn’t bend my knee and barely walk. My friend Danielle was there for me and helped advocate for me. I had managed to do everything else was doing without problem but my body had hit its limit. However, within a few minutes a Mater from Spain was by my side and was massaging and using pressure to help my knee. I was given ice and told to sit. Within five minutes I was standing without pain and was able to join the demonstration of the Poomse.I was glad to be about to join the demonstration. However the knee pain did return and I had to rest at the hotel for the rest of the afternoon. It was not a decision that I like , but it was a needed and responsible one. Growing up with a disability I have learned the importance of having support and knowing when to stop. On this trip I had different support people but one stand out my friend Danielle. Danielle was there as a companion and gave so much support without question. She carry things for me so I would last longer and helped me with the smaller things that happen throughout the trip. It was her support that made a difference to me.

We ended the week with a final dinner. During this time I had the chance to talk with the youth from all the different countries. I found out that my story has been published in a magazine called I Love Taekwondo Global Magazine. I had an amazing time on my second trip to South Korea and I look forward to a chance to return again.

Adaptive Sports

For a number of years I have thought about getting a bike again. As a child I had a big wheel and loved it.  I rode it so much it literally fell apart one day. Since then I have not had a bike and have often wanted one. Over the years I looked into it and found it to be expensive and complicated which often lead me to find something else to do with my time. Well about two weeks ago I started looking into bikes again and came across new information and possibilities. On Friday I went to NH to a program called Northeast Passage to have a bike demo. I was going to be able to try various bikes and see which would really work for me. Very exciting.

I received more out of the appointment then I had imagined. When I first arrived I was brought into a huge room of bikes. I got to look through them and see what would work we settled on two possibilities. A trike bike and the banana peel bike. The trike bike we had to play with for a while to get things set at the right measurements. This had hand brakes and the steering were with my hands which I found to be difficult once they had me riding it.

Then we switched to the banana peel bike. This bike was amazing it was so easy to use the steering and peddling were controlled by the hips and legs. It felt so natural. I rode around the parking for a while and found that I was getting good at it pretty quick. The main drawback to this bike is that it is only a one speed. So if I really got into riding I may need something with more speed.

I had a lot of fun and got amazing information. I found that I could sign up with Spaulding Hospital to be involved with their adaptive cycling program and use the same banana peel bike. This would give be a chance to really try this bike out before buying it. Then I learned about other adaptive sports that Northeast Passage was involved with water-skiing, kayaking, golf, and shooting. I’m very exciting about all these possibilities for this summer. I am already signed up for cycling and water-skiing. I’m looking into kayaking and shooting. I love to try new thing!

Easter Seals-Ready, Set, Go!

Easter Seals Team Hoyt Rising Star Award is given to a person who shows determination to break down barriers facing people with disabilities. This year I had the honor to be presented with this award at the Ready, Set, Go event. The evening was wonderful. Barry Nolan was the Emcee. He had great remarks about Dick and Rick Hoyt. I only recently have learned about the Hoyt Team and was even more inspired by their story after hearing Barry. Then there was the unveiling of the Team Hoyt Portrait which was amazing. Later I was presented with the Rising Star Award. Kirk Joslin, Easter Seals, presented me with the award along with a few friends of mine. I have been a friend and mentor to the Perrino family as their son also has TARs. I was blown away by his remarks regarding my life. I have to say I was a bit teary eyed as I was given the award.

I was honored to receive this award. As I said that night I have spent my life just being me and never imagined that my life would inspire so many people. I spoke to the Ready, Set, Go audience the only way I could and that was from my heart. I told them how amazing my family and friends have always been to me and how they made difference in my life. I also told them about some of the amazing experiences that I have had working with Massachusetts Easter Seals.

My friend Remon Jourdan then read an original poem called “An Honorable Equation” which was an opening for the next award. EMC Corporation received the Team Hoyt Award because they have determination to break down barriers facing people with disabilities. As a corporation they are ensuring that people disabilities have equal opportunities to work.

The whole evening was awesome and I’m honored to have been a part of the Ready, Set, Go evening.

“Delightful Sheila”

Delightful Sheila

The documentary was aired in S. Korea the week of February 19, 2012 and people involved with making were pleased with out come. I received my copies the second week of March 2012. I was very excited to watch it. I was curious as to what made the final cut and what did not. There was a lot of filming done and in the end maybe a third of it made it into the documentary.

Upon watching the film there was a lot of dubbing done to the English interviews. I had though they would keep our parts English with Korean subtitles. Perhaps that would of been to much for the Korean viewers. Just as they had planned there were four themes that my personal life including family and friends, my professional life including my work at HAWC and my motivational speaking, Tae Kwon Do accomplishments, and my trip to South Korea which were put into five episodes. I now have my own theme music which is pretty cool! I was amused to see that they kept me being annoyed with them at dinner one night. I looked at the camera a told him I was tired, sore, hungry, and cranky and I would talk to him later. Then there was a conversation with nephew when we were trying to get him to tell his name to the camera and he says he was busy. Very cute I was happy to see that made the film that was so him and he was so cute. I was really please to see that Shriners Hospital for Children was captured in a really good light as they have always been an important part of my life. Watching myself in this film and others has really given me a new perspective on how I do things and why people are sometimes amazing by what I do.

I have been slowly sharing the film with friends and family. I have a friend making some copies for me so I can lend them out. He is also trying to take out the dubbing into Korean of the English interviews to allow my friends and family to be able to understand. Just the other night I had a movie with a bunch of and one of friends who speaks Korean came over to translate some of the Korean. This was a lot of I finally got to understand what was being said by people in the Korean episode after I spoke or demonstrated my Tae Kwon Do. It turns out people were inspired by me! As I get better with video editing I hope to put parts of it on my website or youtube.

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Easter Seals -Team Hoyt Rising Star Award

Easter Seals Honors Peabody Woman Who Defied the Odds

March 21, 2012 – Sheila Radziewicz, whose personal story has inspired people the world over, will receive the prestigious Team Hoyt Rising Star Award from Easter Seals on April 12. The ceremony will take place at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge.

The award, given annually, honors her efforts to break down barriers facing children and adults with disabilities, including her work as a motivational speaker and mentor.

Radziewicz was born with a rare genetic disorder called thrombocytopenia with absent radius (TAR) syndrome that left her with hands, but no arms or kneecaps, and a host of other medical problems. Doctors told her parents she would not live.

But with the support of her loving family, she defied the odds. As a child, doctors said she would never walk. After numerous operations and long periods in leg braces and casts, she went on to play soccer, roller skate, ride a mini-bike, ski and go horseback riding, among other things – just like the other kids.

Her connection with Easter Seals began when she took swimming lessons in an Easter Seals program at the YMCA in Malden, where she grew up. In recent years, Radziewicz joined the Easter Seals Regional Board in Boston and participated in the organization’s Youth Leadership Forum for teens and young adults with disabilities, discussing self-advocacy.

Wherever she goes, she inspires people with both her abilities and the motto she lives by: “Everything is possible. The impossible just takes a little longer.”

Today, Radziewicz is an articulate and confident woman of 33 who lives independently in Peabody. A college graduate with a master’s degree in criminal justice, Radziewicz works fulltime as the volunteer coordinator for Healing Abuse Working for Change (HAWC), an agency in Salem that helps domestic-abuse victims.

She purchased a new car recently with help from Easter Seals and drives with her feet, thanks to adaptations from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.

Two years ago Radziewicz became the first woman with no arms to receive a black belt in the World Federation of Tae Kwon Do, a Korean martial art. The distinction drew the attention of a South Korean TV station, which recently taped a five-part series on her life.

The media attention she received after receiving her black belt inspired Radziewicz to start a second career as a motivational speaker. In addition to the Easter Seals Youth Leadership Forum, she has told her story and spoken about disability awareness at local schools and organizations, and at Shriners Hospital in Springfield, where she was treated as a child.

“Sheila Radziewicz inspires everyone, both with and without disabilities, with her determination and accomplishments,” Easter Seals President Kirk Joslin said. “As a motivational speaker and mentor to children and teens with disabilities, she is a fine role model – an accomplished, successful and independent adult.”

Easter Seals created the Team Hoyt Rising Star Award to honor individuals who share the courage and determination of legendary athletes Dick and Rick Hoyt. The Hoyts, longtime Easter Seals supporters, are fan favorites in the Boston Marathon every year and inspire people all over the world with their message of, “Yes, you can!”

Easter Seals Massachusetts provides services to ensure that children and adults with disabilities have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play. Nonprofit and nonsectarian, Easter Seals offers technological assistance, employment and training services, recreational activities, youth transition and leadership programs, veterans’ services, rehabilitation services and public awareness programs. For more information, call 800 244-2756 or go to http://www.EasterSealsMa.org.

For more info http://ma.easterseals.com/site/Calendar?view=Detail&id=37238