Leader of the Month Profile

Work and Human Dignity Research Action Team Actively Looking for Engagement.

“They have fallen through the cracks of the immigration system.”

‘They’ are the female refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that belong to a parish that shares the space of St. Mary’s Anglican Church.  Two different parishes sharing one church space. This sentence has resonated with me since the day I had one of my first relational meetings with Rev. Elizabeth Metcalfe of St. Mary’s Anglican church.

My name is Whitney Haynes and I am an AUPE member that came on the GEA board in April of this year.

So what is an AUPE GEA board member doing building community in St. Mary’s Church?
After this meeting between Rev. Elizabeth Metcalfe and I, Kuchangia Kuchanganya started.   These words, Swahili for: sharing, putting pieces together and connecting them, defined our group and became our title. And share we did.  Our group consisted of AUPE members, St. Mary`s parish members, and Bethel Church members from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As well as our GEA organizer Madhu Sood.

 

Stories opened up. One woman’s struggle of understanding the daycare system in Canada to communities helping raise kids in her home country.  Her being a kindergarten teacher in her origin country to not having a job in Canada. A woman who had to leave her newborn behind because he wasn’t on the list.  To immigrating to Canada with her husband who is an amputee and can’t find work because of this disability.  To her trying to support her family on her own, as a cleaner, getting hurt at work but continuing to at work under pressure, not understanding her rights. Another woman, whose passion is sewing and designing clothing now works as a healthcare aide.  I will never forget one sentence she said to me in defeat and resilience: “Why would I try to open a sewing and clothing business here, when people will just go to Wal-Mart and buy cheaper clothes.”
All these stories and more dive into the common feelings of isolation, resilience and dependency on a system that is not understood. 
More miscommunication occurs in conversations I hear around me on my worksite as the multi-culturalism of Canada widens.  Conversations and feelings of being taken advantage of, territorial, from people who have lived in Canada for more generations.
An AUPE member from my worksite became interested in Kuchangia and Kuchanganya as well.  She shared her immigration story – from Rwanda and camps around Rwanda.  Arriving in Canada in 2001 with her two kids and husband, she wanted to be educated, but the worker ‘assisting’ her family into the system when she arrived kept insisting she stay at home with her kids because the government will give her money to live.  She had to search and find a college to study on her own, without help to get a job that she knew she needed.  Her  words that still resonate with me were, “They didn’t want me to be self-sustainable, or else they wouldn’t receive funding from the government to help me.”

Kuchangia Kuchanganya started as a relational meeting, moved to a listening of members not just from within St. Mary’s but to people – the Congolese women not directly connected to GEA and went further into members of AUPE. This project initially started as an English conversational practice group.  We listened to each other share stories of immigration and struggle.  We worked together and pieced stories together through broken English, translated French and Swahili, not to mention sign language.  We are moving towards a greater picture that we are slowly bringing together – an organization/space focused on community building through a cultural exchange of ideas and skills.
By creating a communication/understanding across cultures through a balanced exchange of knowledge and ideas ethnic barriers have started to break down resulting in confidence building and understanding in people of numerous backgrounds. Communication and the understanding of each other are the foundations social equality is based on. And “Kuchanganya,” Swahili for sharing, putting pieces together and connecting them. This is in essence what GEA is. Then the universe validated our connections between institutions and slapped us EVEN closer together WITHOUT a choice – as the Hardisty strike exploded.   As our Kuchangia group met every Saturday we decided one day as a group to visit and support the workers on the picket line – most of these women`s goals are to work in healthcare.  A couple already do.

If you are passionate about this issue and would like to join the Research Action Team please contact Whitney at whitney@greateredmontonalliance.com

 

AUPE NEWS – The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) is urging PSPInvestments to order subsidiary Revera Inc. back to the bargaining table at Riverbend and offer staff “appropriate compensation” to end the 51-day strike. Click here for the full article.

Do you Care?

Join us for a listening at Hardisty on Saturday June 16th, 1 pm

We are in the 21st century in an oil rich province and our brothers and sisters are making poverty wages.
We need to hear their stories of the challenges they are facing to get by.

On Saturday, It saddened me to watch a little girl, three, four, witnessing her mother and others criticize
the employer with chants at their lack of respect and integrity for the workers at Hardisty. This little
girl’s first activist moment was yelling “Shame on you” at a building to which she only knows as her
mother’s place of work. The work that provides her mother the money to provide for her food, her
clothing and home.

This little girl needs to be in a playground, napping at home, laughing and enjoying her youth. Instead
she is standing beside her mother in the cold, the pouring rain, the hot sun, strolling up and down the
pavement hour after hour. The yelling continues, the honking and cars soaring by. The Hardisty Care
workers have been on strike for four weeks. Other workers from Calgary and BC are being transported
into Edmonton, accommodation and food are being provided. The little girl’s mom stands by helpless as
her job is taken away from her. What will become of the jobs, what will become of the mother, what will
become of the little girl?

I will not stand by and watch others slip through the
cracks. I want to be a responsible citizen.

Join us for a listening at Hardisty on Saturday 1 pm

GEA Workers Rights Group

Greening Edmonton – one neighbourhood at a time

C Returns aims to help homeowners reduce their impact and increase their savings
Whether because of soaring utility bills or environmental concerns, energy efficiency is something Edmontonians are taking seriously. Unfortunately, coordinating energy audits and undertaking retrofits can seem daunting. That’s where C Returns, an innovative Edmonton non-profit dedicated to greening homes, can help.“C Returns manages everything that’s involved in retrofitting homes for better energy efficiency,” explains Godo Stoyke, one of C Returns founding partners. “We make it easy for people to green their homes, from audits right through to energy saving retrofits and applying for rebates.” Stoyke and partners Shanthu Mano and Anna Bubel are aiming to complete 3,469 home audits and 1,703 green retrofits in the next three years.The decision to focus on greening existing homes and community owned buildings was driven by the fact that today’s buildings account for 39 per cent of North American carbon dioxide emissions. By the year 2050, it’s estimated 80 per cent of the buildings that exist today will still be in use – resulting in the bulk of building related greenhouse gas emissions.“That’s why it’s so important to do this now,” notes Stoyke. “Greening homes improves people’s comfort and reduces their energy costs here and now. But it also contributes to the long-term health of our planet.”C Returns, which has received start up funding from both the City of Edmonton and the Social Enterprise Fund, is hosting its official launch on Thursday, April 19, 6:30 pm at the Strathcona Community Centre League, 10139 87th Avenue. GEA members are invited to come out and learn more about how C Returns is working to green Edmonton.C Returns Contact:
Shanthu Mano, Director of Community
shanthu@creturns.com
780.340.8089