By Dan Chalcraft
“Accept who you are and like yourself since cerebral palsy is just a part of who we are it and it doesn’t define us,” – that is the motto Christina Han lives by.
Former staff member of the Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia (CBABC) Christina Han has taken the next step on her journey to lifelong fulfillment and happiness, with a well-rounded life and professional achievement. She gave birth to a baby girl on March 29, 2016. Baby Gina will be brought up by two parents with disabilities who believe in a Life Without Limits and reaching their dreams.
Christina worked at the CPABC as a community outreach assistant for a total of two years where she was a volunteer, intern and paid employee. Through her community outreach role, she learned how to interact with various people at community events, how to talk to members on the phone, and the proper etiquette for presenting yourself to others and the public. She feels that it is wonderful that the CPABC is giving back to the community by providing programs like yoga and dance, which allow parents to see their child’s potential and gives a sense of empowerment to children and adults living with cerebral palsy. Christina currently works at the Richmond Centre for Disability as a receptionist.
Growing up with cerebral palsy
One half of a set of twins, Christina suffered birth complications including a loss of oxygen and was born a few minutes after her sister. She was diagnosed with CP at nine months old. Despite feeling that her disability was misunderstood while growing up in China, she received great encouragement from her grandmother who would always be pushing her to do the best she can.
After arriving in Canada, she learned more about her condition and accepted herself for who she is resulting in her confidence growing which allowed her to be more vocal about her disability. She was active throughout university, where being involved with the Chinese Student Association contributed to her growth and development. She was part of the executive team, where she helped with the events department and newsletter team. In the final years of university, she was elected Vice President of Internal Affairs which meant keeping the 1,000 members and 50 executives harmonized. In addition, she was in charge of human resources, which gave her a lot of courage in expressing herself and in communication.
She gained experience through volunteering at YWCA Toronto for one and a half years, had a part-time English tutoring job and then volunteered as a receptionist at the Richmond Youth Service Agency. She felt she had to volunteer for a long time to get where she is today, and pointed to the job search as one of her biggest obstacles. She really wanted to engage herself in a career where she can step up and help people in a minority group that might be overlooked by society. “My impression is that people nowadays are more focused on building businesses, finances and stuff like that and they are overlooking the part that the community actually needs – more love, care and support,” says Christina.
She also feels that society – and in particular employers – don’t realize the potential that people with cerebral palsy have, as they aren’t educated enough about the disability. She believes that the CPABC provides a platform for people with cerebral palsy to start their life. “I think that they give a lot of volunteering opportunities for people with CP as I have seen a lot of volunteers coming in and then becoming employees for the organization” says Han. “They are giving them a stage or an outlet that they are talented in some way and even though they have limitations they are still able to earn own income and make their life more enjoyable by doing what they are doing.”
Because her disability is quite mild, one of Christina’s challenges is the fact that she always has to explain to people that she has a disability and needs to be offered a seat on public transit – especially when she was pregnant! Christina also speaks about how she felt intimidated when doctors talked to her about being pregnant with CP, and says the process was difficult for her due to symptoms of body pain, heaviness and shortness of breath that occurred earlier in the pregnancy for her. Nonetheless, she remained positive, tried to eat healthy and was extra cautious. She loves children and even chose to study Early Childhood Education before going into University.
Welcoming baby Gina
Christina is Chinese, and has a Korean husband who also lives with a disability, having suffered a stroke at the age of five. The condition is called “moyamoya” and affects his left side. Christina feels their similar experiences means that they can understand and support each other. The couple have decided that they want to teach the baby both Chinese and Korean and will encourage her to excel in school so she can be accepted into prestigious universities. In the end, they both want the best for their baby and plan to encourage her in whatever she does. “That means if she wants to do music, cooking, and dancing she will find her passion and we will support her – we just want her to be happy,” says Christina.
Christina believes that everyone has some type of imperfection, so even if you have cerebral palsy, embrace what you are good at despite your limitations. “Try to live happily every day and see the bright side of things and you will definitely get very far in life,” she says.
The CPABC congratulates the new family and wishes them every happiness.