[Image shows a headshot of Natalie Hampton from the waste up smiling with golden brown hair, wearing a green dress with black sleeves and several gold necklace chains. Background shows wooden fence, several trees, and a grassy patch of land.]
I-CREATE YOUTH is expanding to promote disability advocacy and social justice in all domains of life. We've always been interested in exploring fellow youth involvement in disability advocacy, and we were fortunate to have interviewed the wonderful Natalie Hampton on her nonprofit work and storytelling. Check out her organization here, and learn more about I-CREATE YOUTH at icreateyouth.wixsite.com/site.
ICY: Hi Natalie, tell us about yourself—your background, hobbies, interests, and anything else you’d want others to know.
NH: I’m a junior in high school, and I’m lucky enough to attend an arts school (Kinder HSPVA—fun fact: Beyonce went there) in the creative writing department! I’m a twin, though we actually attend different schools. We look nothing alike and are quite different, though we align with some hobbies like reading and can obsess over books together. Soccer is also a major hobby of both of ours. My sister plays on her school team. Though my school doesn’t have any sports, I play club soccer in the Girls Academy League, which means frequent travel both in-state and out-of-state.
ICY: What's the story behind the origins of your nonprofit organization, Special Siblings Connect?
NH: My sister and I have always been active in the disability community, first as siblings and now as volunteers. Some of our close friends we’ve known for over a decade because we met as siblings at these programs now volunteer together. After witnessing our own and other lives, we have seen how much siblings of individuals with disabilities benefit from a community of other siblings, so we started brainstorming ways we could help other siblings form that community. Out of that came the creation of our nonprofit Special Siblings Connect.
ICY: Describe Special Siblings Connect's mission and how you've been working towards that goal.
NH: Special Siblings Connect’s mission is to help support siblings of those with disabilities, foster connections between them, and create awareness for them. Currently, we are working to collect advice, stories, and thoughts from other siblings to compile into a book, publish, and donate to sibling organizations, local hospitals, etc. For a lot of siblings, it is hard to reach out and ask for advice, and we hope that providing this free resource will help siblings know that they aren’t alone and they have a community of people who want to support them. We are also posting some of these sibling stories on our blog, and in the future, we plan to expand these blog posts to other members of the community who support disabilities and their siblings, such as teachers, therapists, etc. In the coming months, we will also begin to host virtual support groups and webinars to help more siblings connect.
ICY: In addition to offering support for siblings of disabled children, you’re also an incredible writer, winning national awards and publishing your work in numerous journals. What does it mean to be a writer?
NH: For me, writing has always been about telling stories—the awards and publications are just a plus. I grew up loving reading; I was very much (and still am) a Percy Jackson kid, and I fell in love with these plots and characters. As I got older, I started trying to write the same stories I love to read. I experiment with writing in different genres and styles like poetry, script, and fiction, but whatever the genre, it always comes back to the core story I’m telling. That’s why one of Special Siblings Connect’s goals is to help siblings tell their stories because I know how important stories are to both read and write.
ICY: I’ve been so inspired by your resilience despite having a disabled sibling—the spirit of advocacy really resonates with I-CREATE YOUTH's own mission. Do you have any advice to give to youth on empowering themselves and the people around them?
NH: The hardest part is always taking the first step and making the dedication towards empowerment. It was easy to say that I wanted to support siblings of those with disabilities, but actually starting a nonprofit was a lot harder. That being said, it is always possible, you just must make the commitment. When empowering yourself and others, first identify a specific mission, and then ask yourself what are ways you can achieve that mission. Next, take action. You can start small, but what’s important is taking that first step. I promise it will be worth it.