Traditions, Connections, & a Reality Check
LEDlab student Anna Migicovsky has just been hired by Potluck Café Society to grow Knack! Here she shares highlights from the Knack Awards Ceremony.
As part of the Knack workshop series we have a tradition of holding an award ceremony at the end of our eight-week training period. This is an important opportunity to recognize the Knack Earners (participants who are facing barriers to employment) for their energy and efforts. This event happens on a Friday, during lunch at Potluck Café.
Two weeks ago, a cohort of Knack Earners finished up the soft-skill workshop series. As per usual practice we held an award ceremony to celebrate. Below I share my experience interacting with a Knack Earner to learn in what ways Knack has impacted her. Also included are pictures from the award ceremony.
Speaking to Lora, I realized how important and meaningful this workshop series has been for her and many of the other participants.
A little bit about Lora: She was referred to Knack by Sarah Common at the Hastings Urban Farm. Lora has been a committed volunteer at the farm and has built a strong community around her with people who care about her. We had six people from the Hastings Urban Farm join us for this cohort and I witnessed the connectedness of this group and how they opened up to the other participants and included them in their group.
During the Knack series, Lora and I got to know one another, and we were able to share in both the tough and the happy moments.
Tough moments included her efforts to quit smoking, especially when some of her friends would go out on break for a cigarette. These tough moments also allowed her to show strength and fortitude. Lora signed up for a group that meets every week to provide advice during the process of quitting. In our conversation I could feel that she is proud of taking these steps to quitting, but she is honest about the self determination it requires, and temptations she faces everyday.
Amongst these challenges there were happy moments as well.
She told me how proud she was when she received a new position at Carnegie Community Centre. She had said she had been practicing her “soft-skills” (eg. workplace communication, teamwork, conflict resolution) after reviewing them at our Knack workshops and was pleased to have recently received a receptionist position at the community centre! This position offers her a regular schedule (~4 hours a day during the week) and a stipend that provides her with food vouchers. She really appreciates the food vouchers, because she is able to go to the Carnegie Cafeteria and get a healthy breakfast to start her day (even if she is running late, or doesn’t have any food at home).
Another moment, very unexpected, happened between the final workshop and the award ceremony. One of our Knack Earners passed away suddenly from a heart attack in his room over the weekend.
I was completely shocked and saddened by this tragedy. Over the course of the eight weeks, I could see him gaining trust with the group and opening up. John (name has been changed) was quiet at first, but by the end, was eager to share during class discussion. He worked hard during our activities and always had a smile on his face.
It wasn’t just a shock to me, it was for everyone in our group – especially for the people that were close to him. He had put so much effort into stabilizing his life and health over the last couple of years and was finally relaxing and able to enjoy this new found stability.
As someone who has grown up in Vancouver, I have always heard about lower life expectancy of people living in the DTES, but witnessing an early death of someone you have worked alongside changes the statistic to a harsh reality. This kind man had a long life to live, and had a loving partner to grow old with. He died way too young, and he will be remembered in our hearts.
The life expectancy of a resident in the DTES is 77.2 years, compared to the 86.1 years for residents in Vancouver’s Westside
As much as I have been surprised by the realities of life in the DTES (for example Welfare Wednesday), I feel privileged to work alongside the amazing and resilient individuals who live here. I find myself growing exponentially each day in empathy and understanding for the material and physical limitations of those living in chronic poverty. I will take this learning with me, as I step into my new role with Knack, which increases my determination to create meaningful employment opportunities for residents of the DTES.
Lora showing off her Knack award. Awards were created by Eclipse Awards.
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