For Immediate Release – Wednesday April 21 2010
RE: Editorial – ISARC – Social Audit
York Region’s contribution to the ISARC social audit; a process using a collaboration of faiths and local host community groups every 5-6 years across Ontario; included Y.R. last Tuesday for the 1st time since they began in 1986. The event was an unadulterated success by any standards with testimonials from 24 individuals living in poverty from across York Region addressing the Rapporteurs, with many others willing. Overflow and participants’ additional video statements were also recorded to be utilized by local host organization, PACC for future media and documentary purposes.
From the outset, the planning team rigorously adhered to providing an atmosphere and set-up that allowed those who participated (or not), to do so with dignity in a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere – and one that left attendees leaving with a positive feeling. To that end, York Region uniquely added “Greeters”, who simply made people feel welcome while waiting to speak or just dropping in. Initial feedback enthusiastically points to this having being accomplished. As attendees arrived, the Greeters, some with direct experience, welcomed people in by accompanying them in and to the tables of food and refreshments and to a seat if waiting and as the day got rolling at both locations, conversations naturally occurred among attendees – and with the other elements of information / advice being available, a kids playroom, music and an an atmosphere that created a “safe’ environment to share – they did. Many hung out as long as possible offering help anyway they could.
Said Bruce Voogd, Coordinator Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, who attended all day in Newmarket,
“You guys did a great job. You could really sense a positive vibe in the room.”
Julie Mark, a Markham resident / participant, felt something as well.
“For once I felt empowered, that someone is paying attention to what it’s like for people such as me to live in these types of situations. The “one-liner” I have been saying since yesterday is this “I’ve finally come out of the poverty closet”. After telling it all (my story) yesterday, I am not ashamed now to tell people I come in contact with how I live, and why I live that way. It’s not as if I chose to be disabled! Or (sic) chose to be unemployed. So why should I feel bad about it as if it is a dirty secret?”
With a who’s who list for Rapporteurs – Daisy Wai in the south location as well as John Rogers and Charles Beer in the north, United Way York Region CEO Danieli Zanotti facilitating the municipal politicians focus group – and with having additionally attracted more than 25 agencies and 14 politicians to participate, the well planned audit was bound to have a shot at succeeding.
The afternoon sessions were very productive, with participation levels from the agencies / frontline workers warranting a second focus group added; and with plenty of facilitating talent on hand to keep the focus, it worked well. Each group of agencies identified key barriers they faced, with sessions recorded by ‘recorders”. Emerging themes from those discussions will be identified and listed the final report. Ditto for the politician’s sessions – also vigourous – but also very encouraging and a feat to have such a grouping of willing municipal players.
Said Tom Pearson in concluding address to the event at the ‘traditional” after- dinner,
“As many of you likely know I’ve attended many of these types of events… and frankly we are choosy these days about which forums to enter or encourage people to step forward for. But this one I believe could really make a difference and I’m proud to have been a part of it. This was a truly collaborative team that included agencies, individuals, and those with poverty experience and it was great to be able to sit back and watch everyone go to it so we could concentrate on making this special….I’m not used to that…and Yvonne was great to work with.”
The end of day dinner was featured insights and reflections around the table from organizers and Rapporteurs, each having been moved by their experience; and of course this is the hope that the influence of what everyone witnessed affects them beyond the forum, so others feel and hear their reflections in their everyday and professional lives through their actions, attitudes, and words.
Dinner ended with original songs about poverty by Fred Joly who also earlier provided atmospheric acoustics and song throughout the morning…his melodic, feeling pieces – coming from experience – proved the finale that provided the perfect exclamation on the day.
Fred’s performances will be made available upcoming via our weblink.
A local report prepared using the audit input collected by Co-Convenors Tom Pearson, Chairman of the Poverty Action for Change Coalition (PACC) and Yvonne Kelly, Program Coordinator of the York Region Food Network will be drawn up to be released to the media at a date in the near future,.
Watch for clips / postings on the poverty action for change website at www.povertyacc.com.
More info Contact: 289-221-0928 or 1-866-454-9736 – ex 205