For many years, I have attended workshops (often 2 to 3 days long) on a variety of topics within my local church context. These workshops took a very ‘Top Down” approach with experts telling the participants the best way to effect change. This approach contrasted sharply with the GVAT workshops I later attended.
The earlier workshops usually culminated in the same way. A letter was mailed to all parishioners listing the goals for change, and analysing tasks to be completed. The letter usually included a request for volunteers needed to complete the tasks. Few RSVPs were returned, few volunteers recruited. It seemed that it was always the same stalwart volunteers that came forth, which of course led to volunteer burnout, disillusionment and often cynicism.
Six years ago, I moved to Victoria and became a member of St John's. I was attracted by the vibrancy I felt in this church, the welcoming people, and the focus on social justice. Even more importantly, the work of the church seemed to be achieved by many different people which dispelled my tentativeness to volunteer. So I joined several different groups. These activities fed my spiritual and social needs and did not feel like "work", "duty" or "chores". I was ready to say yes to an invitation to attend my first GVAT workshop.
I participated in the Empowerment for Leadership workshop. This experience contrasted dramatically to my experience of workshops described earlier in my story. I would like to share with you some of the contrasts I observed:
I then attended the five-day institute which was aimed at extending leadership skills. The detail and specificity of organizing change made me realize why my previous workshop experiences produced little change.
Next came the Discernment Day previously described and then I became a member of the Action Research Team for Mental Health and Addictions. Representatives from all the member organizations make up these teams. The work began.
My participation has consisted of regular meetings over the last two years. These meetings consisted of identifying supporting agencies for mental health concerns. The next step was to meet and interview all the lead organizers of each agency and to listen to their concerns. Many interviews were conducted, the data was organized and interpreted. It was however at this point, that I had to withdraw from the Action Research Team due to my own health concerns. I still remain strongly committed to GVAT.
Currently, I attend the Hub Strategy meetings which provides current information about ongoing activities. I am able to keep the communication lines open between GVAT and St. John’s church. The Hub group generates suggestions and support to engage each of the members organizations and ensures each is aware of the work GVAT is doing.
I must admit that I was disappointed that I had to withdraw from a more active role. But I still can attend zoom meetings, write letters of support, and act as a GVAT participant on the St John’s Social Justice and Action Group (SJAG).
I was expressing this disappointment to my daughter. Her response to me was: “Mom, donate, Your money is energy stored in a different form. Do it!”
As you become more familiar with the work of GVAT, I encourage you to support this organization.
GVAT inspires hope with its ongoing commitment to work for the common good. Your voices will be heard!