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Building Unlikely Partnerships for Transformation

Katelyn is the Site Leader of our Saskatoon team and she shares how her neighbourhood, Pleasant Hill, is creatively amplifying local voices and building partnerships between unlikely people for the shalom of her community.

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Recently, spring sunshine and lifting pandemic restrictions are drawing people out of homes and into the community. Local organizations are buzzing again with creativity in how to engage our community and partner together for the collective shalom of our neighbourhood. We are all eager to get things back to normal - but much has changed since the pandemic, calling for a renewed posture of listening and curiosity to serve our community well.

Since moving into my home in Pleasant Hill I have been actively involved in the local community association as an expression of Civic Good - one of the 9 Signs of Transformation Servant Partners looks for in the communities we are invested in. This is a way for me to stay engaged with what matters to my community and a place to advocate with neighbours for the wellbeing of our neighbourhood which is often overlooked and under-resourced - yet against all odds, still brimming with life.

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The Power of Listening for Community Change

Through my ongoing involvement with my local community association, I was able to participate in an exciting event that we hosted in partnership with SUM Theatre, a local theatre company. Over the past two years they engaged 100 residents of my neighbourhood with the question: “Pleasant Hill Is…”

A verbatim style play was created out of the responses they heard, highlighting the voices of our community. The intent of the play was to reflect back the heart of the community, and to catalyze next steps towards positive change in the community.

So early in April, A packed school gym sighed, cringed and laughed alongside the performers as we recognized our stories in their voices.

We heard about a community that looks out for one another, we heard youth share back about the challenges of dropping out of school, we heard families mourn over the impact of drugs and addictions, we heard celebrations of our local playgrounds, mixed with fear over needles and gang recruiting.

The room was swelling with pride and optimism as we listened to each other and discussed our dreams for our community in small groups. We left to the beat of local youth performing hip-hop, bellies full of bannock and hearts set towards hope for the transformation of our community.

Bridging Cultural Divides with Story

As we sat around in my living room the next day debriefing the event, we marvelled at the diversity of the crowd that had attended. Unfortunately, it is rare for my white and indigenous neighbours to gather for a shared cause in my community. Even at the event, we heard divisive language from white haired seniors about “those-people” - indicating with disdain towards the young indigenous families that make up the majority of my neighbourhood.

Out of the desire for cross-cultural partnership as step towards reconciliation in our neighbourhood, a plot was birthed in my living room. Margaret, a member of our community association and resident in the seniors building, invited David, another member of our association and Indigenous elder, to come and meet her neighbours and share his story.

David loves sharing his story of surviving foster care and rediscovering his Indigenous culture and identity as an adult. Time and time again he has seen his story powerfully soften hearts and lead to understanding. Naturally, he jumped at the idea.

The pair headed home laughing and scheming about their subversive plot to undermine segregation in our neighbourhood through the power of cross-cultural relationship and storytelling.

As I tidied up after the group left, I reflected on how amazing it is that I don’t have to do it all. I get to come alongside brilliant organizations and dedicated neighbours to catalyze change together through building partnerships - especially the unlikely ones.

Find out more about our Saskatoon team's work here!

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