Cerebral palsy can’t slow social justice advocate

  • June 22, 2007
{mosimage}TORONTO - Having a voice does not depend on the ability to speak.

This is certainly true of 24-year-old Rebecca Beayni of Toronto, who was honoured at this year's City of Toronto Social Justice Awards ceremony on June 9. Beayni has cerebral palsy and is unable to walk or speak, but these limitations have not stopped her from becoming a voice for  individuals with disabilities around the world.
Having made a presentation to the United Nations in 2005 while it was preparing a convention on the inclusion of persons with disabilities, Beayni has become an advocate for those whom society have deemed powerless. Her presentation included Revel in the Light, a 12-minute video about her life.

Beayni was nominated for the Social Justice Award by the members of Heart Network, her circle of friends and supporters. The award recognizes Beayni for contributions she has made to building communities both internationally and locally over the past several years. Currently, she is a volunteer with Rosalie Hall, a resource centre for young parents and expectant mothers in Scarborough. Beayni works with an assistant in the Child Development Centre, looking after children in a daycare setting.

{sidebar id=2}Beayni’s mother Susan says that, like her daughter, the mothers at Rosalie Hall are vulnerable individuals. As a result, her daughter’s presence reflects the message that we are all parts of a whole, valuable and interdependent upon one another in all that we do.

“We are all brothers and sisters, and we are here to help each other,” says Susan of her daughter’s message.

Beayni is also a volunteer at the Royal Ontario Museum, where she assists with school tours of the Bio-Diversity exhibit, and at Fontbonne Place, a women’s drop-in centre and residence run by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Toronto. The centre provides resources and housing to marginalized and impoverished women.

Beayni’s resumé, which can be found on her new web site, www.rebeccabeayni.com, includes extensive volunteer experience.

Beayni's message emphasizes the need for interdependence rather than independence. With the help and support of her family and friends, Beayni is enabled. She dances with a L’Arche group called Spirit Movers (L’Arche is a community of care giving and community building that fosters inclusion, understanding and belonging in committed relationships with people with developmental disabilities). She paints pictures as a hobby. She communicates powerful messages without using words, thanks to those who have learned  to translate her facial expressions and hand signals into words. In a world that moves too fast, she causes people to slow down and learn to understand her, said Susan.

Having spent the first two years of her life in war-torn Lebanon, Beayni is described by her mother as a light in the darkness and a peacemaker born in the midst of a great war.

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