Today is my birthday…
Hours before midnight last night, a youth emailed me to thank me for helping her out ‘today’. Having spent all of the day in the office I didn’t understand how I helped. She explained that she had attended a number of workshops and conferences, and also watched our videos on YouTube. Even though she had a bad day, our previous efforts and online resources had made her feel better. I thanked her for the best birthday present I had ever got.
Lots of people ask me, what does JersVision.org do? The truth is we are more than just a series of workshops and conferences; our team’s job is to go into schools and communities, taking the time to understand the challenges they are facing, everything from having a “bad day” to incidents of bullying, and, in some cases, violence and suicide. Then, from a youth-run model, we create customized solutions that promote understanding and respect, empowering youth to engage on the issues they face. And as they engage, we pride ourselves on following their lead and supporting their vision.
But our work doesn’t end there.
We donate buttons, resources, and school supplies. From the North West Territories first Pride Festival, to Ottawa’s own Minwaashin Lodge (Aboriginal Women’s Support Centre), not to mention local elementary schools, Jer’s Vision does its best to reach out to communities in need.
We sponsor and participate in politically and socially significant events, like the Ottawa Dyke March, Slut Walk Ottawa, and the Out On Bay St Conference.
We campaign and advocate on a variety of diverse issues. First there’s legalizing MSM blood donations with the Canadian Blood Services. Then there’s the process of supporting local Lebanese youth in organizing an educational campaign about a performer coming to Canada who sings sexist and homophobic songs. And, of course, advocating for trans rights in Parliament and working with Senators on their report on CyberBullying– and that’s the abridged list!
Lastly, but not least of all, Jer’s Vision collaborates with and recognizes the work of volunteers and community leaders. We spoke to elementary youth about bullying with Rt. Hon. Michaelle Jean. Justin Trudeau and Hedy Fry joined us for fundraisers. And Rick Mercer received an award through us from Canadian youth for inspiring a nation to stand up against homophobic and transphobic bullying.
So why do it all? Well, the truth is, that is part of the continuum of work we do. We recognize that challenges around bullying, discrimination, homophobia & transphobia are complex. That’s why we need diverse and complex solutions that work collaboratively with hundreds of volunteers, community organizations, youth, parents, schools, teachers, institutions, and all kinds of stakeholders.
And it’s hard work that takes years. It’s about changing one mind and heart at a time.
Today is also the anniversary of Jack Layton’s passing. Youth on our team created HOPE buttons that his family will wear at the commemoration in Toronto. In Ottawa, our team proudly handed out buttons at his vigil. I reflected on how he launched JersVision.org. He called our team trailblazers for doing things no one else was doing, like running anti-homophobia/transphobia workshops in rural and remote regions to start the dialogue, and continuing to make positive changes.
I remain inspired by Jack. He said “Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done”.
That is what I do. That is what we do at JersVision.org, and I am proud and grateful to work with an amazing office team (Loresa, Faye, Zoe, Hannah, Cameron, Celina, Chanel & Zi-Tian) and hundreds of volunteers (you know who you are). Not to mention amazing sponsors, donors & community partner organizations.
Once again, to that youth that emailed me last night, thank you. To all of you reading this, thank you. We could not have done it without you. As we enter our 7th year of programming, we know that there is still lots of work to be done, but we are here to do it.
If you want to be a part of this, follow our daily updates on Twitter @JersVision and @DayOfPink, and consider becoming a monthly donor (we need 37 new donors to donate $5 to ensure we can run new programs in Sydney, NS, rural Alberta and the rural parts of the Ottawa Valley). Click here to sign up.