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The Company of Others - Stories of Belonging

The Company of Others

Stories of Belonging

By Sandra Shields
By (photographer) David Campion
Preface by Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN)
Categories: Health, Photography, Social Issues
Paperback : 9781551521862, 184 pages, 2005
Read Excerpt (PDF)


An extraordinary and moving book about the transforming power of family and community on "vulnerable" individuals--the mentally challenged, the mentally ill, the elderly--and how these efforts enrich us as a society.

Company of Others tells the stories, interwoven with photographs, of five such people, who are surrounded by social "circles"--friends and family whose respect, encouragement, and unconditional love gives them a sense of purpose and belonging. Among them are Betty, a First Nations elder whose family makes it possible for her to continue living on the central BC ranch she's made her home for seventy years; Rick, a man in his fifties, who shares his Montreal apartment with two other men, all of whom live with schizophrenia; and Margaret, a woman in her forties with Downs syndrome, whose aging parents' dedication has led to the support of an entire community in small-town Alberta.

The stories told here are profoundly inspiring, giving hope to anyone who is or knows a person who, because of age, health, or disability, has been excluded from having a full and meaningful life. This is not a book about helping those with disabilities, but a proposal for a better way of living together in any community.

The Company of Others is produced with the PLAN (Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network) Institute, an organization that facilitates social networks around the world, and is dedicated to ensuring that those with disabilities and other vulnerable individuals enjoy the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship.


  • Runner-up, Alcuin Society Design Award 2006


When we hear the term 'networking', images spring to mind of handshakes, the exchange of business cards, and hopefully some sort of intangible benefits--a job lead, a meeting with an important person, or even a discount on a big-ticket item. We're often focused on what we might get from the network, rather than what we bring to it. The Company of Others turns that notion on its head, reminding readers that what we bring to the table is far more important than what we leave with.
This book introduces us, in pictures and words, to five individuals whose networks bring depth and meaning to their lives. They are the 'vulnerable' of society--the elderly, people battling mental illness, and those living with intellectual disabilities. We are offered a glimpse into their private lives are see that, through the circle of support around them, these individuals are experiencing the world in ways that some said wasn't even possible. As heartening as it is to hear about their perseverance and everyday successes, the true magic is in how the network of people offering support to these vulnerable individuals are themselves transformed, not by what they get from the experience, but what they give to it.

This concept isn't new to those who work in the nonprofit sector. However, these simple stories of belonging remind us that even the smallest gestures of kindness can have a major impact. If you are feeling isolated, stressed about life, or are just sitting at your desk wondering if you have anything left to give, pick up this book and witness the transformative power of belonging and giving. Although it is a quick read, the images and stories will linger long after the last page is turned, and you'll be left thinking about your own networks, and what you have to offer.
-Charity Village

- Charity Village