Workshop Helps Pathfinders Experience Disabilities

April 11, 2016 | Kimberly Little

When the Valley View Pathfinders of Medford, Ore., walked into their fellowship hall on the evening of Feb. 24, they weren’t sure what to think about the unusual setup of displays circling the room.

Brent and Rachel Olstad of southern Oregon's Joni and Friends were invited to bring a 13-station interactive workshop, “Come Feel What I Feel,” to share with the club some ideas of what it might be like to live with a disability. Each station had an activity designed to give insight into a different disability.

Activities included having Pathfinders hold a pencil in their mouths to write their name (paralysis), pouring themselves a glass of water while blindfolded (visual impairment), practicing their name in sign language (hearing impairment) and tying shoelaces while wearing bulky gloves (motor impairment), just to name a few. “It was really cool to understand how people with disabilities deal with things,” says 13-year-old Shamar Sanker. “I like to draw, and it was cool that Joni learned to paint by holding the brush in her mouth … that was just amazing to me.”

An object lesson to start off the evening introduced the idea of value. A brand-new dollar bill, a wrinkled and taped-up dollar bill, and various coins adding up to a dollar illustrated that, no matter what we look like on the outside, we all have the same value in God’s eyes. “I thought it was a great experience,” says Laurissa Mancía, 11. “They demonstrated that people with disabilities are not different than anyone else, and that we are all the same.”

This workshop is just one way to help youth have compassion as Jesus did. “I understand now how hard it is to do just basic stuff, for people with disabilities," says 12-year-old Tarik Sanker. "I learned how I can maybe be more understanding and helpful to them.”