I wrote the last post Friday night, but admittedly didn't publish it till Sunday night. It just didn't flow like I wanted it to. Oh well...
Since publishing, I've read a fantastic article that Erika passed my way entitled "Moving from the Ivory Tower to the Community," by Margot Fryer, and published in Academic Matters. The article discusses "how the UBC's Learning Exchange has created new community in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside."
The article discusses how UBC wanted to contribute more to the larger community, and so decided to open up a storefront, offering free computer and Internet use, and striving to build relationships and trust within the community.
There are so many amazing things said in the article. For instance: "A community had been created - not by the staff from the university but by the local residents. We made the space, but they populated it and gave it life." I love that. Fryer writes in the article about how the Learning Exchange is different from what both the university and the community had first envisioned. I love how the space was essentially co-created, with the community itself taking ownership and determining, in large part, the direction this initiative would take.
Another quote: "It is tempting to think of the Learning Exchange as a bridge between two very different communities. But this is the wrong metaphor. Neither the university nor the Downtown Eastside is a homogeneous entity. The Learning Exchange is not a hard structure between the university and the community but a fluid, changing force that resides within both." I love this quote because it goes back to my dislike of the "us" and "them" dichotomy.
And more: "The stereotypes about the Downtown Eastside evoke fear because its residents seem foreign, but one quickly discovers that most people in the neighbourhood are pretty ordinary. What then becomes unsettling is the realization that there is not that much separating those who sleep in warm, comfortable beds from those who sleep on cold, hard sidewalks."
And finally: "It is not only that being involved in a community that is struggling to overcome serious challenges can provoke reflections about how society is structured, how resources are distributed, and how government and corporate policies shape everyday life. But the engagement itself teaches that democracy and citizenship are not abstract ideals... The state of our society is not something that only elected representatives can influence. Citizenship is what is happening right here and now. Are we doing enought? Are we including people? Ensuring that everyone can contribute and feel valued?" Great ideas and great questions...
I think what's so exciting to me is that these are ideas I have been mulling about recently. Living on George Street, watching Jeff struggle in his teaching job in inner city Hamilton, hanging out at Women 4 Women... these have been major influencing factors in my thought processes these past five months or so. But now I've found someone who has expressed these ideas so much better than I ever could! Exciting and inspiring all at the same time!