What does it mean to be a community activist?
We certainly see many examples of activism through the media such as people demonstrating in front of city hall or organizations such as Greenpeace that will draw attention to an environmental issue. We see celebrities put their name behind causes and political leaders striving to change to oppressive systems such as Nelson Mandela with Apartheid.
As much as I think this type of activism is extremely important and has had incredible impact on how we live our lives today, I think it is easy to overlook the importance of making a difference in your own community. So I suppose when I think of what it means to be a community activist it is about exactly that. Community activists are the individuals, the unsung heroes you might say, in our community that go about making our communities better places to live.
These are the individuals that make sure that the neighbourhood school has a proper playground. They have started up support groups, ensured that there are coaches for the sports teams and established breakfast programs. I hope you are beginning to see what I mean. To me community activism is about being involved in your community and helping to make it a better place to be.
I know that the theme for this month’s blogs has been leadership. Community activism is a form of leadership as far as I am concerned. I have been a resident of Niagara all of my life and in that time I have had the privilege of seeing community activism in action. I have seen breakfast programs started, social service programs initiated, music and arts festivals develop just to name a few. All of these actions began with an individual or groups of individuals who saw a community need and did something about it. It is leadership in action.
Here at the YWCA I have the additional privilege of seeing community activism every day. I see staff members who go above and beyond to make sure that our programs and services are making a difference. I see volunteers, like those featured in our blogs this month, and the amazing work that they do to make sure our events and the issues that affect the women and families we serve are brought to the foreground. I see individuals like the brave women who have told their stories in the media of what it is like to live day to day with the realities of poverty.
I find that inspiring because for me, it shows that we all have capacity to have impact; we all have something that we can do to make our communities better. We don’t have to be a celebrity or part of a huge organization or a political leader to make a difference. We are surrounded everyday by ordinary people doing extraordinary things and I for one am grateful to every one of them.
Images courtesy of Google.