“A Career for Life” Cheri-Leigh Fowlow
When I was a student in elementary school, I was given an assignment to do a book report and present it to the class on two occasions: once in English, and once in French. Admiring Helen Keller and how she overcame extraordinary adversity, I decided for both assignments to do my presentation on Helen Keller's The Story of my Life. As a student, I never imagined that those book reports were foreshadowing things to come. Fast forward about thirty-five years and you’ll find me, an Intervenor who has been working in the field for going on twenty years.
In 1997 I enrolled in the English – American Sign Language Interpreter Program at George Brown College. Prior to that, I was a volunteer with CNIB Deafblind Services in London. I loved it! I remember thinking at the time that this was going to be a life-changing opportunity for me….I was right! Even throughout my studies I knew that the language and interpreting skills I was learning in the interpreting program would be used to follow my aspirations of becoming an Intervenor.
Since I was first introduced to what was then referred to as "intervention," there has been a significant shift towards more professionalism. This is evident in the work and recommendations of the Intervenor Services Human Resource Strategy. One of the suggestions brought forth by the Education and Training sub-committee is the revision of the Code of Ethics. As society has changed over time, so too has Intervenor Services changed. Together with a Self-Reflection Guide, and a Handbook for Implementation, the new Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Ethical Conduct serves to update and provide clarification on what is expected of Intervenors, today. For example, there is a greater focus on understanding the impact of dual relationships and why it is important to maintain professional boundaries. In the past, it was acceptable, and perhaps even appropriate, to form friendships with clients, socialize with them outside of work, and invite them to our homes. Now, however, these behaviours are deemed as unprofessional and are therefore discouraged. The field of Intervenor Services has developed from a "job" into a profession with more clearly defined parameters around the role of an Intervenor, parameters that delineate what is deemed proper and what is not.
Serving on the Code of Ethics Review Committee was a wonderful opportunity for me, allowing me to work alongside clients and colleagues across the sector, pooling our experiences and thoughts to create a document that aims to improve both the methods by which Intervenors provide services and, in turn, the confidence that clients may have in receiving them.
Participating on the Code of Ethics Review Committee has been a key highlight of many in my career. Trying to pin down one profound experience is difficult, if not impossible. I've been very fortunate to have been afforded many opportunities to attend training workshops, be involved with committees, and give presentations about deafblindness; however, I believe it is through the everyday provision of services and the ordinary interactions with people who are deafblind where I have made the most impact in the lives of the people with whom I interact professionally. It is what most people would consider to be the "small stuff" that I think matters the most. For example, recently a client has begun attending a weekly Games Night at the CNIB Hub. Until then, this client spent much of her time at home alone, very rarely interacting with others who are deafblind. Now, instead, she looks forward to Tuesday nights when she can play Jenga at the Hub, laughing throughout the evening and chatting with everyone. Afterwards, on the drive home, she talks about how much fun she has had and how she is looking forward to returning. To me, that is what Intervenor Services is all about: inclusion, making it possible for people who are deafblind to access events in their communities, bridging gaps, and making connections with others. While it might seem insignificant to some people, Games Night has not only opened a whole new social circle for this client, but it has also improved her confidence in other social settings.
I consider myself fortunate to work as an Intervenor; this profession affords me the opportunity to work with amazing teams, enhance the lives of people who are deafblind, and to learn unique skills. There is always room for growth and a never-ending opportunity to make a difference. Not only do Intervenors enrich the lives of people who are deafblind, but equally, people who are deafblind enrich the lives of people who are Intervenors.