#OCChangemakers 2022-2023 Mid-Year Project Highlights: Elisa, Grant & Jasmeen

Updates from Elysa, Grant & Jasmeen at the mid-year of the implementation of their projects as an #OCChangemaker.

Into The Rainbow: A Welcome Guide For Loved Ones
Elisa Hollingsworth, Peterborough 

Project Description & Goals

Into The Rainbow: A Welcome Guide For Loved Ones is a booklet of information for loved ones of people who have recently come out as 2SLGBTQIA+ and don’t know where to start. 

This project was inspired by my experience, knowing that the people around me had wonderful intentions but didn’t know where to start. It has definitions, acronyms, art from local 2SLGBTQIA+ artists, advice from people who have experienced this, and so much more.

Project Highlights 

One of the highlights over the past few months has been doing the two surveys necessary for creating the booklet. For the first survey, Elisa asked 2SLGBTQIA+ community members to complete a questionnaire about supports they utilized, what they wished their loved ones knew about their identity, and what they wished was better known about their identity/sexuality/gender.  

This approach gave Elisa some incredible and eye-opening answers. One of her favourites was the question, “What do you wish your loved ones knew about your identity/being 2SLGBTQIA+?”. The answer was simply, “I’m happier now.” The other survey, for loved ones, had questions like how you reacted when someone came out to you in the past? Would react differently now? and words of advice for families/friends of 2SLGBTQIA+ people. Elisa was lucky to have people share so many thought-provoking and personal answers, including “Be brave and revisit your emotions often, and you will find peace.

Into the Rainbow Welcome Guide Cover, cartoon people represented in the colours of the rainbow.

What’s Next
Over the next six months, Elisa looks forward to printing and distributing the booklet, making it available online, at libraries, and hopefully high schools! In the long run, she’d like to expand ‘Into The Rainbow’ into workbooks, workshops and drop-ins. “This program has been such a great opportunity for me to learn from experts, peers, and my community, and I look forward to seeing where this project goes,” says the Changemaker.

About Elisa
Elisa Hollingsworth (she/her) is a 25-year-old living and working in Peterborough/Nogojiwanong.
Throughout her time at the OCC Studio, hosted by 8 80 Cities, The Peterborough-based Changemaker experienced incredible learning opportunities. From meeting everyone in Toronto for workshops, monthly meetings with speakers, and the trials of creating adequate programming for her project.

#socialinclusion #enhancecivicengagement

Community Connections
Grant Neegan, Sudbury

Project Description & Goals 

Community Connections is a project dedicated to creating opportunities to contribute, develop confidence, and participate in physically painting community murals.  

Two people painting a mural at Brookview properties.

With this project, I wanted to present the value of art and bring social well-being with confidence to my community.

Project Highlights 

Brookview Properties was one of two murals completed. The finished product reflects the creativity and expressiveness of the people who live in the area.

Indigenous students painting a Community mural for Indigenous Students Circle at Laurentian University.
The second part of Community Connections was the mural for the Indigenous Students Circle at Laurentian University. The goal of this mural was to revamp their office in a way that reflects Indigeneity within the university. “We wanted to create a space where Indigenous students felt represented and reflected in the art. This space allows students to participate in events, influence policy, meet others, and find resources”, shares Grant. 

The Changemaker believes his project has changed Brookview Gardens properties by painting the hydro box at the entrance. Completely brightening the view of the entrance and shaping how people feel when they enter the properties was satisfied when tenants saw the mural. The murals’ impacts were substantial and fueled Grant as an artist and pushed him to show community and social change.

Community mural for Indigenous Students Circle at Laurentian University.The mural for the Indigenous Students Circle impacted how students actively engaged with the spaces provided for them. The mural has created a welcoming presence that encourages students to come in and learn about what the council offers them. Not only does this help the council to grow in numbers, but it also helps all Indigenous students to feel supported and encouraged. Having the ability to deliver something meaningful for his community was genuinely elevating and validating him as an Indigenous artisan. It diversifies the environment and solidifies community development.

Mural at Brookview properties with indigenous theme finished.

About Grant
Grant Neegan is an Indigenous Visual Artist who has dedicated much time to refining his artistic abilities. Working predominantly in oil paint and charcoal, Grant’s work expresses themes of realism and fantasy through contemporary stylistic techniques. Having graduated from the Fine Art & Design Fundamentals program at Cambrian College, Grant is working hard towards making a name for himself in Sudbury’s artistic community. 

 #socialinclusion #activatepublicspace #murals 

Reconnecting With Our Roots
Jasmeen Dourka, Brampton, ON  

Project Description and Goals

Reconnecting with Our Roots is a workshop series that explores how elements of South Asian culture can be used to promote good health and well-being. Each workshop is focused on a different topic and will be facilitated by subject matter experts to ensure that participants receive accurate, evidence-based information. The main goal of the project is to equip the Brampton South Asian community with the knowledge and practical skills to integrate cultural practices into a healthy lifestyle. 

To date, my team and I sourced topics of interest from community members by engaging with them in public spaces they already occupy, such as parks.

Project Highlights 

Through the community engagement process, Jasmeen and her team have gathered valuable input from diverse individuals who may not have otherwise been reached through traditional outreach methods. This approach allowed for a more organic and inclusive process for identifying relevant and meaningful topics that resonated with the community’s needs and interests.

After collecting these topics, the Changemaker and her team identified the top three areas of interest that would inform the content of the workshops. Interestingly, they found that many of the suggested topics deeply intersected with mental health. As a result, they decided this would be the broader focus across all the workshops. Precisely, Reconnecting with Our Roots will deliver three separate workshops that are focused on the following:  

  1. Fostering mental well-being through culturally sensitive nutrition  
  1. Using culturally relevant options in physical activity to address perinatal mental health among parents  
  1. Integrating art, spirituality, and mindfulness into daily life 

 Project Challenges

However, one major challenge Jasmeen and her team faced in the first six months involved finding subject-matter experts to facilitate the workshops. In overcoming this challenge, they learned the value of adaptability. Community-based projects can be complex, and unexpected challenges may arise during the project. By being flexible with timelines, they ensured that these challenges were accounted for, helping to ensure the project stayed on track.  

To facilitate and deliver these workshops, the Changemaker partnered with SOCH Mental Health, a Brampton-based non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the South Asian community with the skills necessary to take a proactive approach toward promoting good mental health and well-being. This partnership has been a significant highlight of the project thus far, and the project team looks forward to seeing how efforts come to life at the workshops this spring. 

What’s Next

In addition to delivering the workshops, the next six months of the project will involve an evaluation phase where Jasmeen will seek feedback from participants on what they liked, what they would change, and what topics they would like to see in future workshops, as I plan to secure more funding to help sustain the project. 

About Jasmeen

Jasmeen Dourka is passionate about advancing equity for historically marginalized communities through engagement in community-based initiatives and research. In addition to her lived experiences as a second-generation immigrant who is part of the South Asian diaspora, her graduate studies in Global Health sparked her interest in culturally competent approaches to health. These approaches do not take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ route and instead respond to the unique needs of diverse populations. 

 #socialinclusion #civicengagement