Rebecca Beayni

Toronto, Ontario 


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These paragraphs are excerpted from “Textured Life,”  in Kirby’s Lane—A Well Traveled Path, a publication of Community Living Ontario written by Charlotte Dingwall

While Rebecca does not speak with words, everyone who has spent time with her says that she definitely communicates. She uses a wheelchair for mobility and depends upon and trusts others to assist her in daily life. These things in themselves are not barriers – rather, the barriers are the limitations society sometimes imposes on those who communicate or move differently. Rebecca is breaking down these barriers.

Person after person refers in some way to Rebecca’s gift of presence – the talent she has to help others slow down, be more reflective and enjoy the simpler things in life. In a world where people often pray for peace of mind and body, Rebecca’s friends have found peace in her presence.

Having spent the first two years of her life in war-torn Lebanon, Rebecca is described by her mother as a light in the darkness and a peacemaker born in the midst of a tragic war.

Her contributions are felt by many communities in Toronto. Rebecca, in turn benefits from her volunteer contributions. Mutuality is one of the measuring sticks of success. Rebecca has ample opportunity to gather, socialize and network with many other volunteers through her work in Toronto with the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), a women’s centre and a day care. 

Rebecca’s energy and involvements are notable and her accomplishments are many. Over and over, people who interact with Rebecca have the opportunity to learn that having a voice does not depend on the ability to speak. Through her actions and her commitment to community, Rebecca has spoken volumes and many have had the opportunity to hear her message. 

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Presentation to the United Nations 
Wednesday, August 3, 2005 

...Rebecca has been blessed, ironically, with cerebral palsy, and an intellectual disability which makes her dependent on others for almost everything. Despite this, Rebecca had led and continues to lead a favoured life where she is an integral, functional, and impactful member of her society. She represents persons with disabilities who demand to invoke their rights as citizens to be seen, heard, and allowed to make meaningful contributions to the community. Usually, when people see Rebecca, they do not initially see her as being able to share and contribute. It is not her physical limitations but rather an attitude of unwillingness to see beyond them that can bar her from becoming a full citizen.

A part of being a whole society or a democratic society is making certain ALL voices are heard...however, some of our society’s most vulnerable citizens are ignored. Rebecca forces people to slow down to communicate with her and this is a gift to the world…slowing people down to the point where they have to listen to those otherwise-ignored voices. This guides us in the direction of a good society; which is measured by how people treat, listen deeply to, empathize and interact with its most vulnerable members.

Rebecca was fully included and integrated into the regular classroom since elementary school and she has had wonderful teachers who planned creatively and effectively to cater to her learning needs. Part of this was having Rebecca’s classmates play critical roles in assisting her and helping her teachers to create accommodations that would be to her benefit.... Not only did these youngsters learn the importance of responsibility for others, task commitment and community building, they also gained from an educational perspective as well; since teaching strategies used to assist Rebecca helped all levels of learners.... Teachers, administrators, fellow students, and co-workers always say that Rebecca’s mere presence changes the very fabric of their relationships, making them more collaborative, more compassionate, and more intuitive to strategies that advantage all persons. 

Rebecca continues to disseminate citizenship education in her pursuits as an adult...She listens to Grade 1 students read at her old elementary school, [and as she cannot speak, the children] are able to read freely with no expectation of criticism...Rebecca is also a facilitator at the Royal Ontario Museum in the Bio-Diversity Hands-On exhibit, helping people discover things that they might not otherwise notice. She also brings hope and inspires the vulnerable and dispossessed through her own vulnerability when she volunteers at the Mustard Seed Drop-In Centre with its community kitchen, library, sewing room, etc.. Salt and Light TV is another place that Rebecca contributes her gifts. As well as helping with editing, her presence reminds this Catholic community...of the values that form the foundation of their faith. 

Most inspiring to many is the fact that Rebecca is a dancer. She dances with the Spirit Movers liturgical dance group and testifies to her strong faith using this medium...her success in overcoming obstacles is mainly due to the deep and committed relationships she has developed with family, friends, her support circle as well as collaboration with community groups...such as the church, schools and other venues. Her support circle, who has met regularly for the past 13 years, help interpret her goals and dreams. Rebecca does not speak, so those around her ensure that she has many other ways to express her feelings and desires. It is imperative that she have long term relationships, both paid and unpaid, who can help build the capacity of the community to welcome her gifts. In return Rebecca helps them create a better world for all. This is citizenship, and Rebecca is an esteemed educator in this regard.

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