At this time of the year, everyone can see how generous our community is. Gift baskets are prepared throughout the region to make sure that kids receive presents and everyone is well fed. As we celebrate Hanukkah, Solstice or Christmas, no one wants to imagine that children and adults are not finding joy and feeling well cared for.
As I rejoice in that thought, I can’t help wondering what happens on the 27th or 28th? What happens in January? We get busy with other issues and other tasks at hand and forget that too many of our neighbours struggle to put a roof over their head or to keep it there and to bring good food to their table. That’s why we hosted a special event on Saturday, December 15th. We wanted to help one another to rethink giving and explore ideas for long term, rather than immediate impact.
In the midst of so many activities focusing on emergency needs, we wanted to engage participants in digging more deeply into poverty and exploring ways we can all invite our neighbours, friends and family members in participating in creating a community where everyone is able to meet their basic needs, every day of the year.
We organized the event around several stations designed to appeal to a wide range of interests and curiosity. We had a table set aside for participants wanting to partake in an experiential game designed to shed light on the lives and experiences of people living in poverty. Each player is given a new identity with a unique history and the resources attached to their experiences. An integral component of our Hungry for Income series, this game titled, The Hand You’re Dealt offers powerful insights into poverty. Participants have reflected and acknowledge that their assumptions were misplaced. They noted feeling stressed and anxious just playing the game. “I now can imagine how much poverty can lead to anxiety and chronic stress,” said a participant in one series.
Feeling more connected to the issues at hand, several participants created numerous buttons to promote social justice: “Make Poverty History,” “Hungry for Income,” “Poverty: Your Tax Cut at Work” and wrote letters about basic income to the provincial and federal governments.
We had a photo booth inviting folks to write messages, post them on line and invite others to pressure for change. Some of our youngest participants used the opportunity to communicate what matters to them:
Participants could prepare their own gifts for friends and family members. One included information on the poverty tour, and planned to go with a group of friends. Another created a list of documentaries for her film club. Participants also picked up resources to share with others and engage in conversations about the root causes of food insecurity. Finally, people signed up to participate in the Nourish Hungry For Income Book Club which will start on Tuesday, February 5th at 6:30 pm. You can sign up by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling #705-743-3526 ext. 102, and you’ll receive more information about the club in the new year.
To ensure that everyone in our community can eat well on holidays and throughout the rest of the year, we need to engage in long-term change and embrace solutions such as basic income, portable rent supplements and living wages. These changes, however, will not take place on their own. This is why we are creating opportunities for everyone to create the kinds of changes that will really improve the health and wellbeing of our community in the long-term.
We know it can be hard to engage in this process so for the next few weeks, we will be posting ideas designed to help you turn your compassion into action during the holiday season, and beyond! Follow our holiday posts on Facebook and Twitter for ideas. Make civic engagement your New Year’s resolution!