INCLUSION AS A CONDUIT FOR CHANGE
While the benefits to Yvonne quickly became clear, a less anticipated outcome was the positive impact that Yvonne’s presence was having on her peers. The transformative effect she had on one student, in particular, still stands out in their minds.
When Yvonne was in the 8th grade, one of her classmates decided to celebrate April Fools Day by playing a prank on their teacher. Notorious for being the class bully, the classmate in question was a boy named John who had gone to lengths to coat his teacher’s chair with chalk dust. The prank, however, went awry when one of John’s classmates switched the teacher’s chair with his, and so, as it turned out, the prank was on him.
While her classmates were reveling in the bully’s comeuppance, Yvonne had a decidedly different reaction, as the turn of events moved her to tears.
"Yvonne was so sensitive," her mother explains. "She didn't like it when people made fun of somebody else."
Remarkably, Yvonne’s sensitivity was enough to soften John’s disposition, and so much so that the following day he found himself helping Ivonne up the steps and patiently seeing her into school.
Even though she herself was frequently misunderstood, the Penner’s story nevertheless illustrates that Yvonne was acutely aware of the needs of others. Her sensitivity, coupled with a strong sense of empathy, had a transformative effect on the people around her.
While the desire for change has motivated them for decades, the Penners are happy to see that some things have stayed the same. When they think back on their longstanding relationship with the New Brunswick Association for Community Living, what’s clear is that their support has been unwavering.
“NBACL still have the values they started with,” Peter remarks. “As parents, we feel a lot more optimistic.” It’s this sense of continuity that inspires hope in the people that the New Brunswick Association of Community Living supports.
A warm word of thanks to the Penner family for generously providing photographs to help tell Yvonne's story. Thanks, too, to the many photographers who make their work available through the use of Creative Commons licenses.