The Gathering. I’ve heard about it, but never been lucky enough to attend. So imagine how excited I was when I started working with Spark (a service of CCEDNet) the week before the Gathering. I’d finally get to attend – and more than that, I’d get to help out, too.
I’ve been a believer in the importance of community for most of my life, and from what I’d heard, the Gathering seemed like it would be a place full of people who held the same value. More than that, it sounded like a place where people came together to think as a community about how to tackle some of the issues we face as conscientious Manitobans.
I was glad to discover that my initial impressions were right.
Most of my morning was spent at the registration table, but I managed to sneak away long enough to hear most of the keynote address by Charlene Lafreniere. Charlene is passionate about creating opportunities for Aboriginal people in Thompson, and redefining how the northern community sees itself. Her work to increase housing, educational, and business opportunities is inspiring.
Charlene sees Thompson with clear eyes, having helped create a community history to help the broader community deal with some of its past, and get a better sense of where to go in the future. Through a process of community involvement and consultation, she helped bring the Thompson Aboriginal Accord into being, a ground-breaking document recognizing the role of Aboriginal people in the city’s history, and affirming the city’s commitment to strengthening relationships with Aboriginal governments and people. The Accord’s commitments and goals benefit all of Thompson’s citizens, and are reported on every June 21.
Charlene also spoke about a cultural proficiency program that has made its way into businesses and schools, helping people see the impact of their attitudes and ignorance, and combating racism and misunderstanding through local and regional identity initiatives. As she put it, “power shifts can only happen if people know themselves and their neighbours.”
Thompson’s journey is far from over, but Charlene’s insights and inspiration set the right tone for the rest of the day. Each of us present at the Gathering is on a journey of some sort, but if we come together, we can go farther together than we could alone.
Over the course of the Gathering, I had a chance to hear Mike Toye explain the geese in CCEDNet’s logo. While I knew that geese travelled together to help optimize their efforts, I had no idea how great that impact is. Did you know that by flying together in a V, geese can go over 70% farther than if each goose flew alone? That’s pretty amazing. Talking about CCEDNet and geese, Mike summed it up this way: if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.
I had heard beforehand that the Gathering is kind of like a family gathering of people who have a passion for community change, and the number of happy reunions, hugs and genuine engagement I saw on Friday showed the truth of that statement. It truly was a place where people learned from each other, encouraged each other, supported each other, and worked together towards the goal of creating stronger, more sustainable communities.
I look forward to flying with you on this journey towards stronger communities.