We are not alone - Lynn Hennigar
From the opening 20/20 sessions to the final wrap up the Georgetown Conference 2.0 was both an empowering and challenging conference. It opened with the compelling, and in some cases heartbreaking, personal stories of people leading change in this area.
Bassem Alataalah a newcomer to PEI from Syria was a highlight for me. Bassem had the courage to educate all of us on what Syria was before the conflict and the damage the conflict has inflicted. He reminded us that he didn’t choose to leave a good life and that all he’s asking for from us is a chance at a new one. Bassem’s revelation that it takes 365 days to get a driver’s license in PEI, where little or no public transportation makes driving a necessity, was just one example of the significant challenges newcomers face.
I was surprised and heartened by the many conversations around municipal government change and amalgamation. Our whole region is struggling with this. Municipal leaders, who understand the unsustainability of the current system, are working on how to engage the public so they too will understand the needs and benefits of working together. We were incredibly lucky to have a number of people from Pictou County attempt who could help us understand what went wrong and to learn from their mistakes.
My only disappointment came from speaker Doug Griffiths. While Mr Griffiths book, “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” is a great read, in his presentation, even after attending Bassem’s presentation, Mr. Griffiths continued to perpetuate the myth that our newcomers should just be grateful to be here - when really we should be grateful for the opportunity to welcome them.
Overall – The big message was we’re all struggling with the same issues, people don’t want to change anywhere, attitudes are a problem throughout the region and we’re not alone.
You couldn’t help but be inspired by this room full of change makers. Even those from Pictou County who arrived defeated gained strength from the room to begin talking about next steps and how to move forward in spite of their setback.
The issues and problems we face across this region are the same – more importantly though there is a growing group of people willing and dedicated to making the change needed to move us to prosperity.
Watch the presentations from Bassem Alataalah, a Syrian refugee living in rural PEI and Amanda Hill from Pictou County. Both participated in the 20 x 20 Speaker Series on the first day of the conference.
The second day of the conference began with a keynote from Chef Michael Smith. Michael lives in PEI and is one of Canada’s best-known chefs. He is a passionate advocate for simple, sustainable home cooking and an inspiration for families creating their own healthy food lifestyle. He’s also the host of Chef Michael’s Kitchen, Chef at Home and Chef Abroad seen on Food Network Canada.
He spoke to the group about challenges and opportunities on leading change in the region and asked the group these five key questions:
Participants then led the conference by holding conversations that were important to them.
What courageous conversations now will improve our solutions moving forward?
13 Ways to kill your communityThe day ended with the second keynote speaker, Doug Griffiths. Doug has two degrees but he has long said the best education he ever received was growing up on the farm. It taught him practical lessons about life and built in him a strong work ethic.
Concerned about the future of rural communities, he ran and won his first election to become the sixth youngest person to ever serve in the Alberta Legislature.
Doug took the group through the steps of his book, 13 Ways to Kill a Community. He told the group if you do not deal with these issues in your community it will become obsolete.
Tina Hennigar is the population growth coordinator for NOW Lunenburg County.