Continuing the Journey  in St. Thomas Elgin

 

Better Together ~ Sharing Our Stories

 

The Destination Church in St. Thomas Ontario under the leadership of Beth Fellinger, the church’s Senior Minister has come forward in our community of St. Thomas Elgin to offer space, refreshment, and support to help create opportunities where listening and sharing with people in the Indigenous community can take place right here in our community. Beth is dedicated to providing a Family Friendship Centre that is Indigenous-led and where everyone who wants to participate can come, listen, share experiences and have time together.

 

This innovative project is supported by Christian Reformed Church of North America. Beth Fellinger, the staff along with many volunteers at the Destination Church in St. Thomas will begin in September of 2018 providing a physical location where members of the Indigenous community can gather, share time together, eat together in a space that is easily accessible to those who would like to come and take part. Importantly, Beth’s vision is to create the space and off activities, guest speakers and programs at little to no cost for the community.

 

This project is very important to Beth as she was an early and ongoing community partner in the original Journey Together St. Thomas Elgin Truth and Reconciliation (JTSTE) initiative. The original project took place in the summer of 2017, where the City of St. Thomas and Sarena McLean of SNJ Associates prepared a grant application to the Ministry of Education of Ontario to enhance access to off-reserve culturally relevant, Indigenous-led early years child and family programs with the St. Thomas-Elgin Indigenous community.

 

Unfortunately, after extensive listening, sharing and work to prepare the grant application last year, the grant application was not successful. Throughout the original project in 2017, the project team at that time along with volunteers were sincerely dedicated and committed to the principles of truth and reconciliation. The JTSTE project community was engaged and the efforts of many people directly led to the development of the grant application. The voices of the local Indigenous community members, who shared their stories and participated in a myriad of ways was the crucial piece in putting the grant application together.

 

When the application was not successful, it was a significant disappointment and importantly, a setback; however, it did not deter the spirit of our community in continuing to move forward and remain dedicated to listening and working with all people in our community to honour what many members of the Indigenous community had shared during the original work that was important to them as individuals, for their children and families.

 

Beginning in the early winter of 2018, Beth and Sarena worked together for several months searching for other resources to help keep the spirit of the Journey Together St. Thomas Elgin project going. This is very important not only to Beth and Sarena but many individuals, organizations, and community members across our region. The original grant application was the result of the voices and ideas the Indigenous community said were important. Beth and Sarena needed to find a way to try again…and here we are!

 

An important message we heard repeatedly was that many people in St. Thomas Elgin did not want or could not travel to London, for example, to N’Amerind to the friendship centre to participate in Indigenous community-focused activities and sharing. Many people expressed that it was important to have space in the community where they lived.  

 

The St. Thomas Elgin community remains committed to connecting and growing respectful and considerate relationships throughout our community. Originally, 5 areas were identified where the Indigenous community of St. Thomas-Elgin stated they wanted and needed change to improve their experiences and community for individuals, children and families.

 

The 5 areas were:

 

 Aboriginal Culture, Learning & Celebration

Recreational Activities (including outdoor/nature activities)

Skill Building

Child & Youth Mental Health Support

Educational Support and Tutoring

 

Some of the specific activities that were requested were Indigenous cooking classes, drop-in coffee time, children’s activities, and other health and wellness items just to name a few. The Destination Church Family Friendship Centre initiative will provide the space and resources to get these started in our community. Importantly, Beth will work with people from the Indigenous community, who would like to share their ideas, create activities, lead programs or volunteer with Destination Church to ensure that all ideas and resources create what is important to those members of the Indigenous community who live right here in St. Thomas Elgin.

 

If you would like to provide leadership for any activities or volunteer to help us with the Family Friendship Centre please tap or click HERE to contact us

 

Sarena has waived her professional fee and offered to work for our community’s living wage in order to join Beth this summer and through the fall of 2018. Beth and Sarena are dedicated to Continuing the Journey. Right now it’s all about getting the word out and connecting with as many people as possible who would also like to take part. In late August, Beth and Sarena will have a calendar of events and activities available for everyone to see so that we can all save the date for things we would like to attend. Also during this time, Bev and Sarena are looking for community organizations and partnerships to help and support this process. Shortly, a date will be announced for a 1/2 day working lunch at Destination Church in the fall for all individuals, organizations, and community leaders to join us.

 

We need partnership and sharing to create the resources and leadership that is needed to bring the activities, programs, and services to St. Thomas Elgin that the Indigenous community has already shared are important along with hearing new ideas and from people who were not able to take part in the original project. We are opening the doors at the Destination Church to those who have already shared with us and to people who may be new to the community or could not take part last summer. All Indigenous community voices are important to hear from in this new continuing phase.

 

How Do I Become Involved?

 

Follow Us on Facebook to stay up to date with what’s happening

 

Call 519.488.1529 to speak with Beth or Sarena

 

Email us at wearelistening@journeytogetherstthomaselgin.ca

 

About the Continuing the Journey Together….

The original Journey Together St. Thomas-Elgin Truth and Reconciliation Project (JTSTE) was a local project in St. Thomas-Elgin that was funded by the Ministry of Education (EDU). The JTSTE project goal was to develop a local grant application that would have enhanced access to culturally relevant, Indigenous-led early years programs and services off-reserve, including child care and child and family programs. This JTSTE was a collaborative project, working with people from our community along with program and service delivery organizations to identify immediate and long-term opportunities important to the region.

 

Since the announcement in the fall of 2017 that the original grant application was not successful we have still been working!

We are excited to continue the work despite our setback.

 

The Destination Church in St. Thomas Ontario under the leadership of Beth Fellinger, the church’s Senior Minister has come forward in our community of St. Thomas Elgin to offer space, refreshment, and support to help create opportunities where listening and sharing with people in the Indigenous community can take place right here in our community. Beth is dedicated to providing a Family Friendship Centre that is Indigenous-led and where everyone who wants to participate can come, listen, share experiences and have time together. 

The voices in the original project were those of parents, grandparents, and caregivers from our Indigenous community speaking for their families & children. 

 

We want to continue to hear what is needed in our community! Beginning in September we will have new and improved ways of sharing so please stay tuned!

 

Additionally, we have a Facebook Page and are also using other social media such as Twitter (@jtste2017) to work collaboratively and effectively in trying to reach all the people from the St. Thomas-Elgin Indigenous community, who would like to know more about what is happening at the Destination Church in St. Thomas as they continue to work with the Indigenous community to create a Family Friendship Centre.

 

What the Continuing The Journey Together Initiative Is Working On:

  • Bring more of an understanding about the legacy of residential schools to our region
  • Close gaps and remove barriers that our Indigenous community face when looking for or accessing programs and services in St. Thomas-Elgin
  • Supporting Indigenous culture through programs and services such as language from traditional cultures, traditional medicine gardens, youth activities in schools and cultural camps
  • Reconciling relationships with Indigenous Peoples by leading by example and ensuring our community organizations participate in cultural competency and anti-racism training

 

WE NEED EVERYONE’S HELP!

We are listening and can be reached by phone at 519-488-5415 or  Email us at wearelistening@journeytogetherstthomaselgin.ca

 

We are asking everyone across the St. Thomas-Elgin Region:

 

Do you have any family, friends or connections with people or organizations who may be interested in creating and helping with the Family Friendship Centre in St. Thoma?

 

Please Help Us By:

  • Getting the word out about what is happening
  • Share the link to this website

Other Specific Things You Can Do to Help:

  1. Would you help us share our information by helping promote our website? Send the information to 3 people today!
  2. Would you help us share our information by visiting our Facebook page, Like our page, and tag other people and organizations who may also help?
  3. Do you have a website, Facebook page, or Email distribution list that you could use to help us get the word out about the Family Friendship Centre?
  4. Can you share our information in the community in any other ways? For example, display our promotional material at your site or post our information on your website? Perhaps you have a newsletter, group meeting or community forum…any help is appreciated.

 

Thank you for your help and support, we appreciate everyone’s time and input