Same Blog, New Beginnings

As it’s only 28 days long, it turns out February was too short for me to write a blog post. Plus, I didn’t have a lot of time to use social media either. Yes, more changes have been occurring – and I’ve been adjusting to a life involving many more in-person activities. These have been with my family, new housemates, firm friends, new friends, and disabled individuals who I believe will only become stronger colleagues as time continues. I sense new beginnings, as well as projects that will build better disability rights in the future.

Stressed, but not Sorry

February 2022 was a stressful experience. A modern home feels so empty when WiFi doesn’t roam throughout, and it took some time to receive the password and then set up an extension so it would reach my bedroom. Plus, as usual, my birthday was on 17 February. However, with a fever and other cold symptoms, a firm belief I had COVID-19 led to me not catching up with my mum and dad as planned. In the end, it turns out I didn’t have coronavirus anyway.

But those weren’t the worst of my problems.

I still need Universal Credit to keep myself alive and well. However, moving house is always a stressful experience, and moving to Salford meant registering a new landlord’s details to gain the additional money people receive for rental costs. Long story short, I didn’t receive it – or at least haven’t yet.

The last time I lived in Salford was when I attended the city’s university, graduating in 2012

My lack of concentration (caused by my epilepsy) led to me losing out on full funding. Instead of providing two documents (with one proving I live at the premises), I only uploaded my tenancy, as it clearly had my address details on there too. However, they wanted another document showing it, which I didn’t realise.

Plus, I’ll admit I panicked when I realised I was going to be living with six people – not three, as I originally thought. I didn’t realise couples were accepted into our home – and, once again, it became abundantly clear my lack of concentration had got the better of me. Still, I perhaps overreacted to the situation, and needed a good friend to keep me calm.

Buddhist, Christian and Islamic Beliefs are Near

My friend Nathan helped me out. We talked the matter through on the phone first, and then I spoke with him the next day in one of Manchester’s Northern Quarter coffee shops. I’ve spent plenty of time working in them, as they’re peaceful places for writers to be. However, as February has continued, I feel I’ve finally settled down more with my new Nigerian and Indian housemates – who either have Christian or Islamic beliefs.

Although I’m a Buddhist, it’s not so unusual for people who follow the religion in the UK to hold Christian beliefs too. In the year 2000, when I was 11, I met Nathan. In classes, Nathan never stood on the tables with extreme levels of confidence, bellowing out the reasons his classmates should believe in Jesus Christ and love God. However, he never shied away from being honest about his firm Christian beliefs.

When asked by others, he told people he went to church on Sundays with pride. He told us he wasn’t interested in drinking alcoholic drinks because of Christianity, either. His popularity at school may have ceased to exist because of this, as teenagers are often keen to get their hands on booze – and I was one of them. I had a lot of fun when drinking with friends underage, but he showed no interest in the habit. For me, late high school was more like a university student’s freshers year – which I didn’t enjoy as much as students typically do. Today, I don’t drink alcohol because I now follow the ethical guidelines of Buddhism.

I used to have good fun drinking with close friends, but times have changed

Back at school, I was agnostic; it might sound strange to some, but ever since I was born, the idea of death being the end of our existence has always seemed impossible to me.

And I’m now a open-minded Buddhist/Christian man. Some Buddhists are atheists, and I know a fair few of my readers won’t want to hear about my spiritual side. But Nathan’s now become a much firmer friend since our post-university reunion. He’s recently helped me deal with a lot of issues in life, and has led me towards what might well become new friendships, too.

More People from Many Countries

After Hong Kong lost its independence to China, various people from the region moved elsewhere. This included to the UK, and clearly people who joined us now dislike the planet’s most populated country. I’m really not so keen on it either. I know this blog speaks about disability-related issues and events, but all people deserve fair human rights. In China, it seems so, so likely that concentration camps exist, mostly holding the ethnic-minority of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang area. If that’s true, it really is despicable.

Hong Kong’s electronics market, in 2012 – a place I would have been happy to visit if I could afford it

But I recently met some people who were born and bred in Hong Kong. They’re Christian too, and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable when I went to meet them with Nathan this month. I feel like I made some friends, as I was welcome to return to their home whenever I wanted.

Plus, my housemates may be higher in numbers than I originally thought, but I’m very sure they’re positive people too! We’re getting along, and I believe it’s possible for people from any country to be friends of mine for sure.

Are You Interested in Ramp Church?

Yes, it’s really called Ramp Church – and I didn’t name it. I went to Nathan’s usual Sunday Church service in MediaCityUK for the first time on 20 February, and was surprised to see such a modern setup. Their venue that can hold a couple of hundred people, and included many instruments on stage and musicians preparing themselves for a live music performance.

What followed was quality indie music giving praise to God. It lasted for quite a while, with lyrics clearly shown to attendees on a large screen. It’s accessible for disabled people, and I recommend giving it a shot if you’re interested. Plus, if you can’t make the event, you can also view it online via Ramp Church Manchester’s YouTube channel at 11:00 am every Sunday.

Ramp Church Manchester’s American pastors and church planters Joe and Stacie Reeser with their three daughters

From what I can tell, people at Ramp Church are open-minded enough too. They don’t dismiss the LGBTQIA+ community, and friendly people of colour enjoy the service as well.

New friends I made a couple of days earlier appeared, and with them I spoke about my interests in promoting equality for disabled people. They seem to like my ideas, and Hong-Kong-born home tenant Chris was keen to see me starting my future projects soon, promising me Ramp Church would be happy to help.

He Made a Fair Point

It may surprise you that Chris’s lack of knowledge regarding disabled people gave me ideas about how non-disabled people could learn more about our issues. He’s a good man, and part of a community with a good morale. He said something like ‘I know nothing about disability – but, if people told me about it, I’d be willing to learn more’.

Then, shouldn’t we tell them? Would telling people about our current situation at church be a bad idea? Obviously explaining it one-to-one would take up a lot of time. However, handing out fliers with general information explaining the social model of disability and how we deserve more respect wouldn’t cause us any harm. Plus, we could always start a simple website for non-disabled people to view that explains the basics of our issues.

I’d be happy to get this work started myself. In school, lessons teaching pupils about the importance of equality aren’t available. Maybe they will be in the future – but we need to take action ourselves, as we’re a while away from getting them up and running.

Et Voila: I’m on the GMCDP’s Executive Council

And I’m so happy about it. Why? Well, if I’m going to make a difference with my ideas, I want to make sure other disabled people approve of them. One thing promised was that executives would simply learn how to manage disabled people’s organisations. I’m very willing to learn, keenly interested in project management, so it sounds like a suitable place to take.  

Although I’ll want to make sure I strongly understand the organisation’s ways of working, I have other plans in mind too. I’ll tell them about my project ideas, and after gathering social innovation skills, believe they’ll like my project schemes as well.

Am I Ditching Disability Arts?

No! Because disability arts can make movements too. Arts speak words to others, and I perhaps think that’s something disabled people need to either remember or learn. I introduced myself to deputy-chair executive Maggie Griffiths in December, and spoke of my ideas to use disability arts to raise awareness of our issues. She supported my ideas, implying that it’s been done before, but hasn’t been done recently.

Still, I should now mention that my proposal to host the ‘Home Music Studio of Equality’ project wasn’t accepted by Arts Council England. However, for me, this is probably for the best. I have perhaps have plans to sway away from my creative side for a while, and instead wish to build upon my social innovation, management, and leadership skills.

But what could work so well together is a combination of disabled and Christian music. Although it’s much more popular in the USA and other more religious nations, they perform live Christian Rock at Ramp Church. If people have Christian beliefs, why shouldn’t we write some songs that both praise God and raise awareness of disability rights?

Nathan (far left) was a member of former christian rock band Rivers & Robots, and regularly contributes to Ramp Church’s musical worship of God.

If you’re an atheist who struggles in life as a disabled person, then I could talk to you for a long time about why we shouldn’t dismiss an interaction with religion or spirituality. I can honestly say my life has only improved since I became more involved with it. Plus, even if you’re only agnostic, you’re welcome to head to Ramp Church to get an idea of what it involves.

I may well write a new song or two that promotes disability rights and praises God too. I think people at the church would be happy to help me get these songs up and running during Sunday service at the church too. Plus, after performance, we can move on to hand out information about disability rights to help them learn all the more about it.

Time to Mingle, Memorise, and Maybe Master Too

Like I said, February was a stressful month. However, I had a short family break away in Cumbria – and it was great. My cousin-in-law Kate deserved this time to celebrate her 40th birthday. Currently studying at the University of Salford, she is close to completing a Bachelor’s Degree in BSc Counselling. Her work has put the idea of completing a Master’s in MSc Project Management into my mind.

After attending the Salford University’s Postgraduate Open Day on 23 February, the idea of studying for exactly 12 months from September 2022 onwards sounds appealing. I had to manage depression at university, but I gained a 2:1 degree in BA Popular Musicology in 2012. I enjoyed speaking with staff on the open day, so believe graduating with a Master’s might be the right way for me to end my higher education.

I’ll make sure I network before the course too though, memorising how to run disabled people’s organisations, and keeping in contact with the people I respect. After that, I’ll be able to use these skills with those I know – and my career will finally expand.

I’ll Keep You Updated

I’ll do what I can to tell you what the GMCDP executive council’s focuses are, what my new ideas are, and the pathway I plan to follow regarding my career. I have plenty of time to decide, so maybe I won’t do a Master’s degree. If an excellent project or operations assistant job arrives that will lead to me gaining greater colleagues, then I won’t hold myself back. I’ll work hard to be a beneficial employee, but keep disability rights activism and arts firmly in mind.

I’ll also tell you more about my long-term ideas that’ll benefit disabled people. They are major plans I believe will improve the lives of disabled people across the UK – and possibly internationally as well.

Despite having epilepsy, I’ve always been an ambitious person – so, who knows? Since the start of the year changes have occurred, and last month everything that hit me seemed kind of crazy!

I’ll try to keep the blog updated with news about what’s new for disabled people, and how I’m looking to bring change. Disability arts won’t be fully dismissed either, although I’ll want to talk more about how we can use them to raise awareness of disability rights and the issues disabled people need to deal with.

I want to search hard for better times ahead. Plus, as I network more, it really feels like so many new beginnings could possibly arrive.

DSC03006 by Anthony Buce

Hong Kong, Apr-12 by Mitch Altman

Joe & Stacie

Rivers & Robots Facebook Page