There is a phrase that is said often around the United Way of Chatham-Kent office -- “Nothing About Us, Without Us.”
The phrase has become a mantra for the UWOCK team which reminds them that leadership does not come from dictating, but rather by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with frontline social service providers and listening to those with lived experience. It has also become a phrase that many organizations that meet at the Social Planning and Action Tables take seriously as they collectively work to help the people of Chatham-Kent.
Through the impactful discussions happening at the Social Planning and Action Tables, it became apparent that there was a need to include the voice of women who were living in precarious living arrangements and often took on the role of caregiver. Oftentimes, conversations around problematic substance use or overdose typically highlighted men, and a woman's voice was not always heard or was left out of conversations.
By creating the Peer to Peer Table, this allowed those voices to be heard.
With the help of relationships built through R.O.C.K. Missions, a handful of women were willing to share their lived experiences in a judgment-free zone to discuss:
- Problematic substance use happening within their circles
- People experiencing homelessness
- Life living in poverty
- Food insecurities
- Various forms of oppression
- Challenges they are facing within the pandemic
- Challenges around mental health
- And really, really, deep systemic challenges
The Chatham-Kent Nonprofit Centre created a safe space where conversations could be had to discuss services and supports, learn about what is working or not working in Chatham-Kent, and finding opportunities to build upon or create within the community.
Women have a chance to share their experiences, concerns, and needs of the community so they can collectively find practical on-the-ground solutions to big needs and big ideas.
“Stigma and discrimination is a huge barrier to access help when and where people need it.”
For many who are living in poverty, timing can be tricky on what needs are being met when they need them. “Oftentimes, they need support in that very moment but the pandemic has made it difficult to get solutions to them within a time that works for them” said Jordynne Lindsay, a Public Health Nurse at CK Public Health and volunteer with R.O.C.K. Missions. By working together, the table is working to create innovative solutions to resolve problems like this.
As a truly peer-led initiative, the participants working in social service are listening to the participants with lived experience and following their lead on where they want to take conversations and actions.
The two biggest challenges the Peer Pathfinders are bringing to the table as a need within the community are food resources and increased opioid use.
The COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund (CESF) grant and the work that the table is doing have proved to be invaluable as it is already changing how outreach is done within Chatham-Kent.
“If we are asking these women to participate and teach us, they need to be supported in a way that works for them,” said Renee.
The Peer to Peer Table received funding from CESF which provides the collective the leniency to try new things and build solutions with the Peer Pathfinders. “There are now a lot of doors open with this financial backing.”backed Renee.
Since the initiation of the table in November 2020, the Peer Pathfinders welcomed men to the collective in 2021. They continue to meet weekly, share their ideas and ensure that there is ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us’