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The Rural Community Living Development (RCLD) project is a knowledge translation grant funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). RTC:Rural staff have partnered with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) to develop and implement a peer-mentoring training with and for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) that will prepare CIL staff to work on community development activities in rural areas. This training will help CIL staff to identify community needs and develop sustainable groups to solve community challenges. The project’s aim is to help CILs across the country connect with community partners to better serve people in rural communities.
In October 2020, RTC:Rural Project Director Rayna Sage presented on RCLD progress-to-date to attendees of the 2020 APRIL Conference as part of a talk on “Strategies for Rural Outreach and Networking,” where she explained how the project shifted due to the current pandemic.
“We planned on being in a community, actually in a number of communities, to use community development strategies like coalition building and partnering with diverse groups to address issues around community living for people with disabilities – but COVID – so we shifted gears,” Sage said. “So we shifted gears to bring together a team, a development team, from across the U.S. to build this Peer-to-Peer Mentoring curriculum.”
We spoke to several of our partners about their thoughts at this stage of the project:
- Christina Holtzclaw, Assistant Director for Northwest Georgia Center for Independent Living;
- Brian Hollander, Program Manager for Independent Living Resource Center of the Tri-Counties;
- Dori Tempio, Director of Community Outreach & Consumer Rights for Able South Carolina,
- and Brianna Ash, Master’s of Social Work Intern, also for Able South Carolina.
CIL partners from across the United States join weekly brainstorm video conference calls with RTC:Rural staff on curriculum content topics ranging from outreach strategies to community values. Partners bring Independent Living (IL) feedback from different communities, and also collect thoughts from stakeholder groups – such as IL consumers, the mental health community, and various service providers – to bring various perspectives into the developing materials.