Donka Facciolo was born in Bulgaria and adopted into a loving family from Sandwich, NH at the age of six. She grew up attending Sandwich Central School and later Inter-Lakes High School. If you are acquainted with the Lakes Region, chances are you are familiar with Donka. Friends know her as joyful, outgoing, a social butterfly, and the life of the party. And that’s how she loves to live her life – full of laughter, fun, and most importantly, with community connection.
Growing up, Donka’s parents taught her the importance of independence. She was born with arthrogryposis, a disorder that affects the stiffness in joints and involves muscle weakness throughout the body. In Donka’s case, arthrogryposis has rendered her non-ambulatory and requires the support of a wheelchair to be mobile.
After graduating high school in 2006, Donka knew that moving out of her family home was the next step to the life of independence she so desperately wanted. She immediately sought help in making this dream a reality. Donka and her family turned to their assigned resource coordinator at Lakes Region Community Services (LRCS) for support. Through LRCS, Donka and her family receive case management to assist them in navigating benefits and resources and making well-informed choices at all stages of life. With the help of her resource coordinator, Donka has support in advocating for her needs and achieving her goals, no matter how big or small. And through the combined help from LRCS and her high school guidance counselor, Donka secured an affordable, wheelchair accessible apartment at Sunrise Towers, a development of Laconia Housing.
“Living on my own at Sunrise Towers gave me newfound freedom and a deeper sense of community. And I love being in the heart of Laconia. I have everything I need within a short distance, which is great because I would otherwise need to rely on wheelchair accessible taxi services to get me around town,” explained Donka.
At Sunrise Towers, Donka receives additional support that allows her to live her life with dignity and opportunity. While she prides herself on being independent, she realizes some situations and tasks are challenging for her physically and requires help to be successful. Through a program offered by Laconia Housing, she receives assistance with daily living activities such as housekeeping and laundry services, in addition to meal services twice a day.
Living independently and in a cost-effective community also provided Donka the confidence to accomplish other goals, one of which was to further her education. She attended classes at Lakes Region Community College and obtained certificates which advanced her knowledge in early childhood education. “Children are my passion. I volunteered at a daycare close to my family home when I was in high school and I loved it. I’ve always known this was the career path for me,” states Donka.
Working with children gave Donka a deeper sense of community. For ten years she worked at an after-school program which helped children build social and emotional skills through enrichment activities. Through this career, Donka was able to make connections with the students she worked with and their families. She prides herself on enriching the lives of the next generation and teaching the importance of disability awareness and inclusion.
In an effort to continue to connect socially to her community, after leaving the after-school program, she went into retail and worked at a gift shop in downtown Laconia. “Interacting with the customers daily and meeting new people made work days so special,” noted Donka.
Donka credits her ability to live independently, seek employment in a career she is passionate about, and continue to stay involved in her community to affordable housing. “I want to give my time and resources back to the community that has done so much for me. I feel lucky to have the resources to be able to live and work in the community I love.”