Sister Auréa Cormier writes from Canada of the impact of her participation in the Systemic Change Workshop in Belleville last November.

The presentations made by many of the committed participants at the Belleville conference touched me deeply. Upon my return, I wrote a one-page description of the session and published it in our Congregation’s monthly Newsletter. Some of my companions said they liked it. But I had an urge to do more.

A small group of compassionate friends asked to report to them on the Belleville Conference. Using the PowerPoint presentations given to us as a parting gift, I was able to share with them your powerful circle of how to break the poverty cycle. I also added the 10 characteristics of Vincent’s approach to his work. At the end of the evening, we decided to meet again. Since that initial gathering, we have met five times, always for the purpose of doing something concrete to break the poverty cycle in the Moncton area of New Brunswick. Here is where we are now.

Our group is composed ten people. Most of them are retired men and women. For the time being, we call ourselves “Seniors with a heart”. We all want to contribute our time and energy to reduce the amount of poverty in Southeast New Brunswick.

We have rallied around two main objectives:

(1) Provide employment and training for low-income people through the recycling of large and small appliances, salvaging valuable metal and motors to be resold; we are also considering furniture repair with the intention of selling it and we may eventually add other types of activity.

(2) Give to people living in poverty an opportunity to acquire a sense of self-worth and offer them the opportunity to work together for a cause, thus reducing their feelings of loneliness and isolation. We will start with social welfare recipients, disabled people living in group homes, ex-alcoholics and perhaps some ex-prisoners. These people will be screened and taken in if they have certain capacities plus a desire to have gainful employment.

Work and training opportunities provided by our group will be centered recycling activities. This will be positive for the environment as it will reduce the amount of material that goes into local dumps, thus prolonging the life of valuable items. The finished products coming out of the shop could be sold in the warehouse which we hope to lease. They could also be sold in the local market or through e-bay or other type of electronic marketing.

Management of the shop would be done by able volunteers and trainers scheduled for blocks of time which are convenient for them. For example, a carpenter or an electrician could offer some of his time on a Saturday morning. Some contactors might also be willing to give of their time. Volunteers will periodically pick up furniture and household items with a leased truck. Some low-income people targeted by this project have been involved early on in the planning of the project.

We are at the stage of defining the type of non-profit organizational structure we need to set up. We need a business plan, with clear definitions of all stages required, accompanied by a time table. One of our members is an experiences accountant and project planner. A brain storming session with the committee members will be helpful to solidify the project.

Start-up income could come from the sale of recycled and refurbished items. We cannot do anything until we identify a warehouse which will house the project. Payment for the building lease will probably come from the profits derived from yard sales. Local St Vincent-de-Paul Society could be solicited for funds. Two local Religious Congregations are also potential donors. Provincial and federal funding are some of the possibilities we will be exploring.

At the beginning of our group meetings, we pray. We believe that if this embryonic project is part of God’s will, doors will open up and it will come to fruition.

Session on Systemic Change Triggered Something New

Visit this link to see the collections of presentations made during this workshop.

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