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Tree SilhouettesOver the last year, I have found myself in several fairly interesting discussions about community development work. Not in the nature of actually building empowerment within communities or the struggles associated with that but something just as significant. Everyone knows this type of work takes time, effort, energy, dedication, collaboration and plenty of other elements in the mix. Reflecting through a social justice lens this also means that we have to look at community work through the complexities of culture, communities, privilege and class to name a few.

So what was the discussion around? The precarious nature of internal dynamics of organizations.

Frequently, I had conversations with friends, workers and acquaintances over the frustrations of internal dynamics and structures. The conversation usually starts with comments surrounding their voices were not readily heard, continuous structural changes, and overall diminished sense of empowerment. The workers essentially become disenchanted and either leave or just stay until their contracts end. All this to say, this nature of community organizing lacks a sense of desire for others to replace them.

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Michael and I started a new DIY Food Action collective to aid people in food justice. For now we have posted lots of content around recipes, canning tips, and other things. It’s our goal to speak out about various food justice issues alongside aiding people to become more food secure and autonomous collectively and individually!

diy food action

Here’s a tried & true dill pickle recipe. Three generations in the making. Here’s a step by step process of how to go about making these amazing pickles.

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The last weekend I spent rolling out some new spoken word tracks on my soundcloud account. This time around I thought it could be interesting to get some music to go along with it….

I would like to build my work around collaboration with other artists around the world.

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[I recognize that some people might read this article and find it hard — or _I hope not_ offensive. Please comment and write in the comments cause really the point of this is to create a discussion not prove my point]

It’s interesting working in several organizations and seeing the various dynamics and relationships that exist within them. Most recently I’ve been working in a pretty large cooperative that contained at moments up to 35 people and now more around 25 people (on a good day). Our mission is to support other organizations attain their goals online through the use of open source software. It’s interesting, nerdy, and fun to help people realize new and cool things they can do online. And most importantly, at least for me, is to be able to break that _hard-ass_ bubble barrier that technology creates for folks. Yep you go it technology empowerment!

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“If we view society as a physical organism, there are clearly parts of this organism that are in dire neglect. For to leave one’s own, here and elsewhere, without shelter, without food, without love… is not very hygienic.

Without downplaying the seriousness of the H1N1 threat to many, we have to realize the disproportionate media coverage and financial investment thrown at fighting a potential pandemic, compared to that directed at the eradication of a flagrant problem which is killing thousands of people each day through hunger, insalubrity, violence, and so on. Not to mention the paranoia and fear which form the face of such coverage. Not very hygienic…” – Etat d’urgance

Every year an urban village was created in downtown area of Montreal to provide an eclectic space for homeless people of Montreal to receive support through food, free clothing, warm shelter, music, arts, and other programming.

My shift started at 7 AM in the morning on Sunday, November 29th – the last day of the festival – after 450 volunteers had managed to help pull off the entire shift by working around the clock to support the people at the village.

Throughout the entire week chefs came from various restaurants to prepare amazing food for the people living in the village. One mornings breakfast included salmon, oysters, eggs, croissants, and fruit. A feast for the kings and queens of the street.

To help out I carried most of the food being prepared by the chefs into the serving area, as well as refilling the coffee machines when they ran out. The entire experience was humbling – to realise that on a regular basis there are people on the street that don’t have the safe luxuries that I do. That most of the time don’t get to choose what they can and can’t eat. It was humbling to realise that after refilling the coffee machine 6-7 times we had essentially served probably over 600-700 people.

The chef that I worked with had an amazing story about having come from a war torn country. Seeing and experiencing threats of this magnitude changes a person I expect. For the last two years he has been contributing to this village through his amazing cooking abilities. He had gotten up at 2 AM in the morning to start preparing the trays of potatoes and sausages to be served. If that wasn’t impressive enough he had been cracking eggs to fill two gallon buckets for the meal.That’s serious dedication towards providing something as beautiful as food for people in need.

On a side note it was also really exciting to see ATSA’s mandate to lower their ecological footprint by recycling and composting all of the waste that was generated. Helping the people and helping the environment – that’s the kinda world that I want to live in.

It’s been a while since I’ve written much here. Well there’s a lot to explain. I’m working hard these days at a Fruit & Veg shop trying to avoid being broke, working on Cycle for Sustainability [soon to be Otesha (OZ)] on any day I have off, and settling into my digs here in Melbourne (read: moving next weekend via all bicycles – yes I have a bed, coach, and other big items now so it’ll be fun and about 20 KM I figure). And I’ve spent time exploring my mind, sleeping, and sending friends letters… yes old school snail mail is tre cool.

I suspect that those that used to read this are long gone and have forgotten about it all. Sorry.

But on that note of friends I have come to the orginal reason I wanted to post. It’s been really difficult at times to fully realize my dreams with this project. My goal ultimately here in Australia is to secure some serious funding for The Otesha Project (Australia), create massive tours, spread laughter/education/love/bicycle moves/groovie vibes/connect with youth/and so much more with as much of my heart as I can. I love kids man. But sometimes I freak out and think that this is a bit much and worry that it’s just not going to happen. That maybe I’m over my head, and just about to start sinking in the deep end of the pool without an energy to get back up.

Then…it’s with appropriate timing some friend of mine comes along and gives me that support, love, and energy that I need. Some through beautiful messages, some through hilarious letters or gifts, some through food, and some through money. It blows me away how supportive and rich the community of people I have around me. It brings massive tears to my eyes to know that there are so many really beautiful people working on so many amazing projects in this country, in Canada, and this world. I’m blessed to be inspired by every single one of you. To see you moving along in your lives with such great hope, strength, and determination only lights that fire under my bum higher. Makes me feel like I can do this and sure there is going to be struggles and hardships but how does a person appreciate anything without a bit of that.

Without love and community we have nothing.
That’s not true.
We have a place to sleep, a bed, a job, a life .. but that’s about it.

I want to foster more community, more sharing, more love, more giving, hope, energy, and change in our world. I really strived to be a man of independance for so long in my life and now … now I’ve sold that ticket to a different bidder and have checked into a life of being around people, learning, growth, sharing what I have, and owning no more than what I need.

Thank you for your love. Thank you for your support. Thank you for you. You may not realize but I’m watching your movements and it brings a smile to my face. What major things you are doing to try and shift, make differences, be different in your life, and grow. We can’t do this alone and we only have one place to live.

Heaps of love

Shane xo

A million years ago I wrote about how bothered I was that people tend to always look at external things to judge people’s level of education, social standing, and other things. That it bothered me that I came from a certain ethnic standing because it gave me social standing that I’d rather not have.

Frankly, it’s something that comes up in my mind from time to time. More that I feel this massive need to help out those that aren’t in the same social networks, benefits, or situation that I am. For a while I volunteered a long time with Food Not Bombs in Calgary to try and help out people who just needed something to eat (yes some people don’t really like going to homeless shelters to get food cause they can feel a bit intimidated).

I wonder at times if people forget that a lot of ethnicities (refugees) end up taking on a lot of the jobs that help support the existing culture that we sustain each day. It’s the immigrants in Canada and even in Australia that are working the late shifts at gas stations, packing food on shelves, and cleaning stores when they shut. I appreciate that and at the same time feel a little disheartened because I know that some of these (many taxi drivers I’ve met and chatted with) actually have engineering degrees from foreign countries that they can’t seem to get recognized in Australia or Canada.

I guess for me it just enhances the fact that I realize there is a need for me to really continue to strive to break down those barriers between the class structure I was raised in and others. Try and find ways in which I can integrate myself with more of these people (and frankly I feel more connected with them to begin with because like Ecuador they seem to value things that are more important to me).

What brought all this home for me was watching the Chilean movie Machuca.

“In 1973, in Santiago of Chile of the first socialist president democratically elected in a Latin-American country, President Salvador Allende, the principal of the Saint Patrick School, Father McEnroe (Ernesto Malbran) makes a trial of integration between students of the upper and lower classes. The bourgeois boy Gonzalo Infante (Matías Quer) and the boy from the slum Pedro Machuca (Ariel Mateluna) become great friends, while the conflicts on the streets leads Chile to the bloody and repressive military coup of General Augusto Pinochet on 11 September 1973, changing definitely their lives, their relationship and their country.” – IMB

At about the half way point I was crying and from that point onward the movie really brought you closer to the reality of what can happen in social situations (not only from politics but also because of social class systems). It was a beautiful reminder that breaking down berries, helping out those that aren’t in the same situation as ours, and sharing what you’ve got is the only way that we can help to create a sustainable fair world. And I know I can do that!

I found a recent article from David Suzuki quite interesting and thought I’d share.

He writes a recent Science Matters article on how we can’t really rely on captive breeding like zoos or other scientific systems to actually save the declining populations of animals.

I think that it a lot of ways seeing bigger animals like bears, apes, and cougars in cages makes me a bit sad at times. More because these animals tend to roam massive areas of land as a natural habitat (they are nomadic animals really). And much like the First Nations people we haven’t really understand that it’s not natural to place people into one area and say, “Here you can have this chunk now and you should be okay with that…”. It’s not a natural system that either are accustomed to. I like the fact that David Suzuki has some backing points to prove that indeed scientifically it’s proven that breeding captive actually kinda hinders natural selection and survival of those animals. Pretty amazing genetics I say. Pretty amazing.

[I’ve been a bit busy and neglected to post this earlier…but it’s still good and important to write I think. Something I came up with while flying back to OZ. Though it’s spoke word and I kinda wish that I could have scanned in the original version with all the artwork and shit.]

What we don’t understand here

I’m looking around
Wondering what I’ve found?

All this movement,
Notions, Motions, Commotion…

Created by you
The B.C. Crew!

Your techni-colour feats
Inspire my beats…

Push the boundary
So we don’t have to live in bigotry
Save what we gots

By blowing your administration
Demand new creation

A change
From the group up isn’t so FUCKIN’ strange?
It’s easy

to become jaded, faded, & hated.

But you gotta ask yo-self what you want.
This isn’t about writing our future in a new font,
Willing a new want,
Or just talking blunt.

We want new beats.
Down with this individualist me-ME-ME BULLSHIT!
And order me a plate of community I CAN DEAL wit.

Adelaide Museum (Aboroginal Man)During much of my time in OZ I’ve felt a draw towards the dessert and although the hike didn’t completely go through I still managed to head out to the most previous spiritual land for the aboriginal people of this country Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Previous to my departure I spent many nights infront of a nice fire at the hostel I was at having a yarn (chat) with touristy people about the politics of climbing Uluru. I knew that this was pretty sacred land for them and they ask that people respect that and I tried (and convinced several) to not go through with the climb.

Kings CanyonWhile on my tour I experienced some really amazing scenery. I can’t begin to describe it nor can I post pictures because the indigenous people of this country ask that we don’t. When we arrived at Uluru I felt an amazing feeling come over me (even though things were rushed with the tour that I booked I still felt a connection there). Our tour guide gave some pretty good stories about the history of these people and why this place is special, sacred, and unique to them.

I think one of the most precious quotes that I read in the booklet they give you upon arriving at the park was along the lines of the following (sorry I have to paraphrase because it’s packed in my overstuffed bag that I’m hitchin to Perth with tomorrow).

So many people come to this land to climb Uluru. But they should look at the rock, look inside, and see that there is more there than just something to climb.

While walking around Uluru I sat down for about 20 minutes and looked inside the the walls of this spiritual place only to find myself looking inside myself. Looking at the aboriginal people. Understanding that something as sacred as this should be respected.

But then why don’t they just stop people from climbing it then? Well after petition the United Nations to get Australia to hand over the native title to this land they were finally granted the land that they should have owned in the first place. The catch is that the UN put a stipulation that the aboriginal people in the nation around Uluru had to lease the land back to Australia for another 99 years. So effectively they don’t really have much say other than to “encourage” and “beg” people to respect them.

It’s a sad state really. But frankly I’m kinda happy I walked around the base because I saw more than most. I saw what the aboriginal people wanted me to see and experience. Along the path I found some pretty special things with regards to the direction my life is taking. I found some truth and feel good about follow my heart in trying to figure out what’s next on this journey in life for me. On a side note one guy on our tour climbed to the top only to feel like crap later for doing so. I felt bad for him as I’m sure he doesn’t want to carry that around for the rest of his life (then again maybe he can use that to his advantage heh).

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