Last Tuesday’s walking tour of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) was a powerful experience for Partners, their guests and staff alike. We met with four of our past and current Grantees for an educational experience unlike any other.
Under the warm April sunshine, we met Ken Lyotier, longtime resident of the downtown eastside and past executive director of United We Can (first stop on our tour). Ken walked us through the impressive operation and spoke to us with great warmth and passion about his “brothers and sisters” in the community and the importance of understanding their needs and wants as rather than assuming we know what those needs and wants are. Ken served as our guide throughout the morning, pointing out various social enterprises and nonprofit initiatives in the DTES. He answered our questions thoughtfully and knowledgeably.
We met next with Janice Abbott from Atira Women’s Society and learned of all the amazing work being done to assist women with barriers to employment and provide housing to women and children in need. Janice also spoke about the vibrant nature of her community and the wealth of creativity and energy that permeates the area.
The next stop was EMBERS, an organization dedicated to providing business support services to help people build the skills and confidence they need to plan and operate successful businesses. ED Marcia Nozik introduced us to Richard Lorenzen who moved from a life of severe alcoholism to now running his own successful pest control business. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without EMBERS”, Richard told the group. Marcia and her staff have worked with more than 120 individuals to create business opportunities.
Our last stop, Potluck Café Society, welcomed the group with a wonderful lunch and a few words from ED Heather O’Hara who talked to the group about the history of Potluck, the work it is doing today by providing thousands of meals to local residents, and its goals to increase the employment opportunities in the future.
Our hosts were delighted that we chose to “go to them” to learn about the issues first hand and are looking forward to the second tour on May 21. We look forward hosting another large group of Partners, and due to popular demand will schedule a third tour for early September. Stay tuned for further details.
In the words of Partner Eric Patel, “It was really informative and eye-opening for all of us…very impressive and inspirational.”
Ken Lyotier leading BC SVP Partners through the Downtown Eastside