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When I joined Public Allies Arizona, I was placed at Arizona Foundation for the Handicap, which is a day center for adults with special needs. AFH’s mission is to provide quality individualized services to people with physical or intellectual challenges in the least restrictive environments.
AFH partners with other Valley organizations to create more opportunities for our members.
We believe in everyone’s right to choose services that most interest them. It is estimated that over 785 million people in the world today are living with a disability, over twice the U.S population.
In Arizona, roughly 100,000 Arizonans have some form of a disability. In the past, people with disabilities were viewed as cast-aways and hidden where they would be “safe.”
Thankfully, over time, the focus of care has shifted and now we advocate for self-determination. Members at AFH are encouraged to participate in a wide range of activities like cooking, art class or going out into the community.
AFH has three locations: Maricopa, Casa Grande and Phoenix. My placement was at the Phoenix location, nicknamed “Perry.” I was hired as the creative activities coordinator, in charge of creating three programs for our members: art, music and physical fitness. Perry was intimidating, but luckily, another Ally, Ellie, had been placed there as well.
The members at AFH could not be more welcoming, greeting me every morning with tons of energy and many fun handshakes. I have made so many new friends and care for each of them. Perry’s instrument selection was a few shakers and drumsticks, so Ellie had the great idea to make flyers asking for musical instrument donations.
We mapped out music stores throughout the valley and went to them explaining who we are and obtain permission to post a flyer. The storeowners were all very receptive and willing to help us out. One day later, we got our first donation, a guitar from Bizarre Guitar and Drums.
A few weeks later, I was walking outside when I came across a member playing music on that same guitar. I sat with him while he finished his song. Afterward, we struck up a conversation and he shared with me that he knew how to play the drums as well and used to love playing with his friends when he was younger. I asked him if I could record him playing and he played a song that was special to him, “Goodnight Irene.”
Lukas Nava was part of Public Allies' Class 12. He was placed at Arizona Foundation for the Handicap [AFH] as a Creative Activities Coordinator. Public Allies Arizona is a 10-month apprenticeship program designed to develop the next generation of civic leaders.