Saturday, September 18, 2010

We could all share a lesson here

Right HEAR, right now.

Are you listening to me? Are you really listening to me?

Turns out I may not have been listening so well to you.

I’m going to change that.

First off, I intend to start looking away from my blackberry long enough to listen with my eyes as well as my ears. A persons facial expressions, their stance, are a dead giveaway for how someone is feeling before they even start talking.

Secondly, if I’m going to ask my kids about their day at school or work, I should avoid anticipating their usual “okay” and leave myself open to receiving anything new that might escape their lips. Too often I let my mind wander because I think I know what they are going to say, which leaves me at a loss and unprepared in case they do decide to expand on their response.

At the office where I’m constantly wanting to make the most of my time, I’m going to make a deliberate attempt to slow it down. Slow it down and be available to my team. Be present and ready to hear them out. I like to think I’m really good at seeking feedback…I just don’t know how great I am at hearing it.

I’ll have to work at letting people finish speaking before I jump in (a challenge for me sometimes both personally and professionally. It’s not done with bad intentions, just in an effort to move things along faster). Sometimes I don’t listen completely because I am already onto thinking about what I am going to say.

What does all this have to do with my visits to charities?


A common thread amongst the organizations I visited yesterday is that each and every one expressed the importance of listening to their clients, listening for the needs of the communities and the people they exist to serve. If we’re not prepared to listen we may as well throw in the towel, close up shop, move over and let someone who is going to listen take over.

I didn’t let the cloudy, rainy, grey day or the sleep deprivation I’ve felt since spending Monday and Tuesday in NYC, nor the cough that’s been keeping me company for the past 2 weeks get in the way of another fabulous Thursday. After all, Thursday’s are my designated Site Visit day and they are fast becoming my favorite day of the week.

Thanks to each and every one we met with for being so generous with their time and for opening up their organizations to us.


Some highlights. For more, check out the terrific websites;

Arts For Children and Youth (AFCY) is a creative art focused program that collaborates with high priority communities and empowers marginalized children and youth by engaging them in hands-on, community and school based arts and education programs.

Through community and school based arts engagement, children and youth can self-express, develop skills, learn new ways of seeing and doing, and establish new connections with society and with themselves. AFCY’s programs include skills development, hands-on arts-based learning, mentorship, self-expression, collaboration, inclusiveness and social awareness.

One of the things that really impressed me about this organization is that their office overflowing with beautiful pieces of art designed by local artists (the youth engaged in AFCY’s programs) wasn’t overflowing with office staff. Most of their workers are on the front lines…communicating and collaborating with communities…right where they should be.

Sharon, Julie, Karyn, Audrey

BOOST Child Abuse Prevention & Intervention is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and violence through education and awareness.

Boost designs and delivers primary prevention programs for children in elementary schools across Ontario. The programs: I’m A Great Kid! and I’m A Great Little Kid! are designed to develop pro-social skills in children that make them less vulnerable to abuse or violence. These programs also works towards developing their self esteem.

Children who feel good about themselves are more likely to develop positive relationships and are less likely to be mistreated in their interactions with others.

It is important to children’s well-being that they know how to get help when they are feeling scared, threatened or have a problem or worry. Children who have developed good communication skills, and have learned about making good choices are more likely to be able to speak with an adult they trust about what is happening or how they are feeling.

The June Callwood Centre is a large, welcoming and very conveniently situated building where young mothers, or soon to be teen mothers have access to a variety of programs and support services for themselves and for their babies.

Housing is available on the premises with 16 apartments subsidized according to the tenants income. At this Centre young moms can work towards their Ontario Secondary School Diploma while their child is being cared for in the nursery (which I got to enjoy for a wee bit) on the same premises.

There are so many offerings at this Centre I could go on forever. I encourage you to visit the site which is a phenomenal resource for teen moms, soon to be teen moms, possibly pregnant teens and for parents of a pregnant or possibly pregnant teen.

* A bit of a shout out to those of you wanting to support the centre. The young mom clients of the centre could use new or gently used household items… quite often the girls are living in their own homes for the first time and don’t have access to the things we may take for granted.

The 519 is a community centre in downtown Toronto which has been providing community programming in its neighbourhood for 35 years. Their innovative model is a partnership between the City of Toronto and the local community – the City owns the building and provides funding for core expenses while the community determines the programming and raises the funds to make it happen.

The Centre is a beautiful community space which feels like a boutique hotel with its leather furniture, slate floors and fine art over the fireplace. The space is gorgeous and really welcoming, but what happens in the space is even more amazing.

 With dozens of programs and over 250 community groups using the building every year, The Centre creates opportunities for people to meet and build relationships with their neighbors – people they might not get to know otherwise. From ballroom dancing to alcoholics anonymous, from free counseling to free yoga.

Eric Wood - Head Chef - Director of Food Services

If you’re in Toronto, make sure you visit their new restaurant opening this fall. Colleen and I had the opportunity to test some of the “fare” coming to this kitchen and I can’t tell you how anxiously I am awaiting it’s opening.

The 519 is a progressive model that should serve as a best practice for the sector!!

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