[The first in a six part series of posts from SSU students participating in a First Nations Learning Tour, hosted by Mennonite Central Committee. The group is travelling in Ottawa & Timmins, Ontario from April 26th – May 8th, 2016.]
We have started off our Learning Tour in the nation’s capital. We have quickly found that Ottawa is filled with many kinds of people. We met with the staff at Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) Ottawa office this morning. This was a great way to start off our trip seeing that we will be with MCC in Timmins next week. Rebecca (policy analyst) and Esther (intern) had a great amount of wisdom to share with us about advocacy work.
Throughout the day the significance of community was brought to my attention. There is value in spending time with people over a long period. Nothing can replace this time it takes to build a strong community. Yet there is also significance in finding others to partner with. Individuals and groups can and do make a difference but they cannot make change alone. As Rebecca and Esther shared about their work it was apparent that they have the same heart that the SSU community shares.
Rebecca and Esther are constantly learning and sharing about people and the issues that they face. For them every person they meet matters. They celebrate when one person sees victory in a situation that they have been facing. They shared a story about one indigenous man in Canada who had been stateless for most of his life. This means that he didn’t have a birth certificate and therefore could not get necessary documents for living in western society. He could not get a driver’s license, health card, loan, or even legal guardianship of his children. When our goal is seeing the value of people, we shift from trying to make an issue go away, to helping find a solution for each person.
We learned that we each have different roles to play in advocacy but there are key political actions we can all participate in. The first thing to remember is that the politicians we elect into office work for us. It is important to tell them what matters to you. One way to talk to an elected official is to set up a meeting. Another way is to write them a letter. Writing a letter is easy and the great thing is that there is free postage when sending a letter to your MP. Another great way of supporting an issue that matters to you is to either start or sign a petition.
By the end of our time at MCC it was clear that education matters and can make the greatest difference. I am so thankful that we have this time to learn from people who are devoting their lives to listening to and helping others. It is like a web that will be ever extending: after this trip we each will be going home to our communities. We have an opportunity to share what we have learned and hopefully those we share with will tell others too.
When our group was touring Parliament I saw the potential influence we each have. We stepped into the elevator of the Peace Tower at the end of the tour. We were filled with awe and wonder and apparently bubbling enthusiasm. The tour had just taken us through elaborate architectural feats where we heard about some Canadian history and saw many pieces of art (these are some of our favourite things). As the elevator reached the top of the tower the attendant told us to turn around to see the bells. We were amazed! The attendant said that she never saw anyone get so excited to see them. Our excitement and questions opened up all kinds of conversations with everyone we met during the day.
Some may say that we are just a small group of nerdy young people. This is probably true but at the heart of it all we are filled with wonder. Each of us in our own way has a passion for seeing the greatness of our world. We are going to take this opportunity to learn and understand.