The Community Action Training Program
“I feel safe to speak when I am here and my confidence has increased.”
“This group is creating advocates, right from the beginning, within our community.”
This is how some participants have responded to the new Community Action Training Program of the CRC Regent Park Community Food Centre.
Launched in April of this year, Community Action Training is the first component of the Regent Park Community Food Centre’s new advocacy programs, which will also include a peer advocacy office and an advocacy club.
“After completing the Community Action Training, graduates can apply for a paid community advocacy position, become part of the social justice club, or do both,” explains Justine Barone, the new Community Advocacy Coordinator.
Graduating from Ryerson University with a Social Work degree that focused on community development, Justine previously worked at Elizabeth Fry Toronto supporting women with histories of conflict with the law to tell their own stories and raise awareness of the lasting damage that a criminal record can have on someone trying to restart their life. A two-year break to attend a baking course fueled her desire to advocate for healthy, ethically grown, and sustainable food for all.
Justine has hit the ground running in her role supporting Regent Park residents to become more effective advocates for themselves and the community.
“Community Advocates will provide participants in the Drop-in and the Regent Park community with one-on-one support on a range of issues such as housing, social assistance, and immigration issues,” she points out.
“They will also contribute to the social justice club, which will be launched later this summer. This club will provide a safe space for discussion and action planning for neighbours who want to contribute to social change on issues that matter to them.”
The Community Action Training program is currently in its 8th week, with four more sessions to go. During that time, participants have covered a wide range of topics, such as storytelling and social justice, power and privilege in the context of Regent Park, information on making a deputation at City Hall or joining a board, and most recently, a session on communication and conflict resolution delivered by St. Stephen’s House Mediation Services.
Still to come are a range of community resources based modules including mental health, immigration, and the creation of an asset map of Regent Park. One of the final sessions will involve training the future advocates about how to complete a community safety audit with the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children. An optional 13th session has also been organized for the participants to learn about the Landlord and Tenant Act as well as media awareness.
The program fits well with Justine’s passion for advocacy and social justice.
“I feel really lucky to be given the opportunity to build this program. Advocacy – both on the larger scale and one-on-one – is such an important part of the work that we do, and I worry that it doesn’t get talked about enough,” says Justine. “Our Advocacy Program honours and recognizes that rights have often been denied the most vulnerable. We’ve always had to fight for them and this includes the right to healthy food.”
And judging by the initial response of participants, the program fits well with the community’s passion for advocacy and social justice too.