Pay it Forward in Greater Forest Lawn!
Sunrise Community Link is a community development agency and resource center engaged in poverty reduction and community capacity building in east Calgary. Sunrise is a hub in the community; we initiate and support a variety of neighborhood activities.
Sunrise Community Link and the Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary came together in January 2016 to partner in The Greater Forest Lawn Community Connector Initiative. The goal of the Greater Forest Lawn Community Connector Initiative is to increase individual, family, and community resiliency by working with residents and community brokers to engage with the larger community and mobilize them to collective action, resulting in a resident-driven network of formal and informal supports for individuals, children & families.
This submission is focused on the ‘Pay it Forward’ project. The ‘Pay it Forward’ Community Action day is a quarterly event attached to the work of the Greater Forest Lawn Community Connector Initiative (GFL CCI). Throughout the year, resident participants and Community Brokers are supported by the Mobile Community Advocate to organize and facilitate four ‘Pay it Forward’ Action Days. These ‘Pay It Forward’ Action days are an opportunity for community members to come together to spread kindness, encouraging compassion, and meaningfully connecting with other residents. Building on the ‘Pay it Forward’ day that Sunrise initiated with staff and Board members in March 2015, we have scaled this event to include community members trained within the scope of Greater Forest Lawn Initiative, to facilitate and lead Pay it Forward initiatives. From buying a stranger coffee, to helping a senior navigate their way across a busy street, leaders and Brokers encourage residents to come out and make a difference any way they can. In executing simple acts of kindness in the GFL community, we promote the bonding of residents and create a stronger sense of community in GFL. An additional benefit of these events is positive media attention on the GFL community, rather than perpetuating the stigma that is attached to these communities.
To date, there has been three ‘Pay it Forward’ Action days: September 2016, December 2016 and March 2017. The next one is scheduled for June 2017. With each event the interest grows. The first event had forty-three participants growing to fifty-nine, and finally in March 2017, a grand total of one hundred and eight participants.
Who Will it Benefit?
Although rich in its diversity, the area we serve includes some of the most economically challenged neighborhoods in Calgary. Many of our clients confront the realities of poverty on a daily basis, from being unable to make their rent payment, to something as basic as struggling to put food on the table for their families. Sunrise works with individuals and families to provide assistance with basic needs, referrals, and facilitate appointments for more in-depth problem-solving and systems navigation.
The goal of the Greater Forest Lawn Community Connector Initiative is to increase individual, family, and community resiliency by working with residents and community brokers to engage with the larger community and mobilize them to collective action, resulting in a resident-driven network of formal and informal supports for individuals, children & families
Even though kindness should be part of our everyday life, residents share that it is easy to get busy and sidetracked. We have seen from the initial ‘Pay it Forward’ Action days, that community members enjoy the opportunity to get involved, take a break from their daily stressors and meet other residents that they otherwise would not have had the chance to get to know. When individuals, families and communities experience a number of stressors back to back, life begins to feel overwhelming. The importance of one kind act cannot be overstated enough, it could change a person’s trajectory from that point forward.
It is estimated, based on participation and the number of items given, that during the March 2017 event that over 1000 acts of kindness and encouraging words to ‘Pay it Forward’ flooded the GFL community in a short three-hour period. Based on the survey result:
• 89% of participant stated that they would commit to another act of kindness within one week
• 83% of participants stated they felt a sense of belonging to their community after participating in the Pay it Forward Community Action Day
• 83% of participants stated they made new connections and stepped out of their comfort zone by participating in the Pay if Forward Community Action Day
• 83% of participants stated that they developed more confidence, skills and abilities to come together with neighbours and friends to help others in their community
It is Sunrise Community Link’s hope, that with secured funds, the ‘Pay it Forward’ Action day will continue to grow; grow in impact, grow in actions and grow in spirit.