Vinfen Director of Service Asela Jayasinghe recently presented at the Annual Diversity Conference hosted by the Department of Developmental Services’ (DDS) Diversity Council and the Regional Diversity Committee. The Conference was held at the Graves Auditorium at the Wrentham Developmental Center in Wrentham, MA.
Welcoming remarks were given by DDS Director and Chief Diversity Officer Tracy Brown and Facility Director Judi Lyons-Ruby. The theme of the Conference was creating a space to discuss how to best serve a diverse and aging population and their families, with remarks from DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder, as well as from other presenters and guest speakers. Diversity Champion Awards were presented as the event concluded with closing comments from Commissioner Ryder.
During the Conference, Asela took to the stage to share on behalf of the Metro Regional Cultural Diversity Committee (MRCDC). Into his third year on the Committee, Asela serves as a co-chair with DDS Human Rights Specialist Jennifer Benoit, and was invited to join the Committee as a direct reflection of his commitment and dedication to populations that are underserved in our community. Uniquely, MRCDC is solely made up of disability providers across Massachusetts who have come together as a united front to advocate for the power of diversity throughout all parts of society. Providers join together from Vinfen, DDS, The Dimock Center, Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, Work, Community, Independence (WCI), and Work Inc. The Committee works diligently to plan and implement activities and events where diversity is the main educational component, and awareness and advocacy is widespread.
Recognizing the value of getting people together from all walks of life, the MRCDC enjoys hosting the Annual Metro Regional Cultural Diversity Festival at Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries in Boston, MA. Attendees have the opportunity to embrace many different types of food, art, culture, dance, and music with each other. MRCDC also presents their annual Cultural Diversity Festival in October, which is a fun day full of dancing, food, and vital discussions as flags from around the world are elegantly displayed throughout the venue. MRCDC’s Game Day Celebration is also an special event where guests engage in sports, fun team activities, and games, and work together to further understand the beauty of both cultural similarities and differences. Dianne, a person Vinfen serves and a self-advocate, played the piano at last year’s Game Day Celebration. “I had so much fun playing piano!” Diane shared. MRCDC’s events are geared toward the inclusion of both staff and self-advocates.
Asela believes in the value of diversity and being a self-advocate. “It’s important to welcome diversity into our lives because we are all built from ideals from many cultures and countries,” Asela shared. He values the ability to be open and welcome differences as a platform to learn new perspectives and ideas about each other and the world. Asela also thinks that by sharing and communicating with one another, we can only grow. These moments are learning experiences where we have the chance to better ourselves and understand people on a deeper level. By this, we then foster authentic relationships and grow closer as a whole.
In December, the MRCDC will host their Advocacy Through Art Event. This get-together is just another way to use art and creativity as a platform to display the beauty of different cultures. The Committee is also currently working on diversity course reading materials with the hope of increasing influential tools to help people to understand and accept cultural differences. As the Committee looks toward the future, they would like to increase community collaboration, provide trainings and conferences for direct support professionals and advocates, and are excited to pursue ideas such as movie nights, book and clothing drives, and blood drives. Each event or activity is just another way to encourage society to learn about the world around them and the power of harmony.