Another Week Beyond – 2221

Dear friends,

community fellows chosen by their neighbourhood came together last Saturday to think more deeply about their projects. Between them, they are working on 5 projects which addresses concerns that have received the support of their neighbours. These include enhancing voluntarism among neighbours, helping families overwhelmed with debt, facilitating community access to health and healthcare, sexual safety for youth, and caring for the elderly who are feeling isolated. 

As the conversation progressed, the value of simply being curious become evident. Fellows realised that by asking each other relevant questions, they gained a clearer picture of what working on their project meant. This was a refreshing experience as they were more accustomed to questions that left them feeling inadequate or blamed. This time the questions seemed to strengthen their commitment to their project.  

“Do community members know what healthcare subsidies are available to them?” was an innocuous question that got everyone reflecting that if people did not even know that a resource existed, how would they even think about accessing it? The question “Are parents and youth able to discuss sexual health and relationships?” generated diverse views and “how do older people want to be connected with the community?” emphasised that success and wellbeing must be defined by those most affected and not by anyone else, not even the fellow whom these people have selected to care for them.

The fellows discovered that by simply allowing questions to surface, they started developing a broader view of all the concerns presented and not just their own. From their active participation, it appeared to us that the ability to participate meaningfully in a discussion is an empowering experience and while we are optimistic that the fellows will be a force for good in their neighbourhoods, they showered us with their honest realism.

As people who cared deeply for their community, they admitted that sometimes they are discouraged when others aren’t as enthusiastic about volunteering their time and energy towards community efforts. This led to a deeper discussion on the many real reasons why people might hesitate to get more involved, like being already overstretched with work and caregiving responsibilities. They were also anxious about failing, which led to a discussion on what failure is. Thankfully, we failed to reach a conclusion on what failure is and agreed that working for change is a creative and experimental process, and as long as we are learning and trying, we are not failing.

We left the meeting that afternoon also assured that people will not fail each other.  When one of them described all the time, energy, and resources she was going to put into her project on debt relief, another said “And what about you? How are you taking care of yourself?” This reminded us that caring for our community begins by caring for each other.

For peace, community, and fellowship,

Sincerely,

Gerard

Another world is not only possible, but she is also on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. – Arundhati Roy

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