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Voices from the Movement: Crystal Williams Shares Her Reflections on the 2019 Global Symposium

Crystal Williams, Disability Advocate and Blogger (
November 3, 2019

Crystal Williams is a disability advocate and blogger with Kabuki syndrome. We were delighted to have Crystal and her husband, Matthew Williams, a Special Olympics Athlete and former board member of Special Olympics International, join us at our 2019 Global Symposium on Reimagining Community in the 21st Century.

Crystal is passionate about writing, photography, animals, and making a difference for others who also have a disability – whether invisible or visible. We are proud to share this blog post from Crystal on her experience at the Symposium.

Hello everyone happy Sunday. Hopefully you are having a great weekend. I’ve been enjoying my weekend as well. This past week my husband and I were in Toronto for a couple of days. We were both invited to go to Toronto to attend The 2019 Global Symposium: Reimagining Community In The 21st Century hosted by The Samuel Family Foundation. Kim Samuel is the Chair & President of The Samuel Family Foundation and also the Founder for the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness.

Now I’m sure you might be wondering how I know her. Well my husband Matthew worked with her on the Special Olympics International Board for many years and so I’ve got the chance to meet her through my husband that way and were both lucky to call her a friend. Back in February of this year Kim invited us both to join her in Nanaimo as she was getting an honorary doctorate from The Vancouver Island University. While we were there she had talked lots about this Symposium.

So going back to last week. There was 170 people invited to this event and there was 150 people that was there. There was people from all over the world — North America, The United Kingdom, Africa, Germany, Australia and many more countries. There was so many different great organizations and businesses that were all there working towards inclusions and belonging. I loved that everyday there was different panel discussions and each panel had a Q&A. That way you got to learn even more about the people and what their organizations were doing. I was so happy to see that Special Olympics was there getting to educate more people who had never heard of it or even people who just wanted to get to know more information about all the great work that it has done for individuals with disabilities.

There was a lot of talk about inclusion and belonging, which I loved because it doesn’t matter if you’re someone like me who has a disability or not. Everyone wants to be included and a right to belong, whether it’s in sports, in your everyday life etc. One question that was brought up a lot to the different panelists was What Gives You Hope To Belonging? For the last couple of days I have definitely gave it a lot of thought and here’s my answer to this question. For me what gives me hope is that being able to educate more people about people with disabilities and also educate more people as well people who are struggling with mental health by being able to continue telling my story but also helping others who may not be able to share their stories in the same way I can.

One of the panelist from one of the discussions said something that really stayed with me and I really loved it. They said that we all have something to give whether it’s big or small. I found that to be very true and also very helpful as well. For me being able to share with others is what I have to give.

Overall the Symposium was an amazing experience. From all the different panel discussions to the breakout sessions. The thing that I’m going to take away and has helped me. I have learned that I need to stop putting myself on the back burner and I need to start thinking about me a little bit more to be able to do what I love but also what I want to do in my life.

Well that’s all for this blog post today. I hope you have enjoyed reading it. I will be making some changes in the new year on my blog. I hope you stay tuned for them. I’m very excited about what is coming next for me but for now you will have to wait and see what I have in store. Hope you all have a great day! Thanks for taking the time out of your day to read my blog. Here’s some pictures that I took from last week! Enjoy.