I first met Steven in late 2010. He was facilitating a workshop on Culturally Welcoming Businesses. I was an attendee. My initial impression, of someone who is genuine, sees the upside in others, and highly skilled in connecting diverse people, still holds true. Last week, I interviewed Steven, to learn more about him, his work with the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA), and his perspective on being a community connector. He was generous with his time, and observations. Much appreciated, Steven.
One man’s journey
Labyrinth-like, not a straight line, is how Steven describes his journey so far. With Mexican and Ukranian ancestry, he grew up in Southern California, and as a young adult, moved with his family to Southern Vancouver Island. After a few odd jobs, he initially found vocation as a teacher. Then, 12 years with the BC Human Rights Commission, subsequent Human Rights work in Australia and Mexico, and for the last 7 years, with ICA, where he currently wears the hat of Coordinator, Multicultural Outreach and Training Program.
And what’s inspired him, along the way? Number one role model for Steven was his mother; a person who was positive, optimistic in the face of difficult circumstances (single mom, 4 kids). She showed how to be patient, find a way to make it work. Other mentors and motivators include can do work colleagues, newcomers that routinely remind him that I have nothing to complain about, and the ongoing opportunity, privilege, to ripple out newcomers stories to the wider community, as Steven shares in this 2 minute video clip: (video not displaying? click here)
The relationship-building work of a community connector
In a culturally diverse context, Steven approaches each relationship on its own, believing each relationship forms at its own pace, not everyone sees things the way I do. Authentic listening, understanding of needs/interests, consistency of action, and patience are essential.
Trust can be gained quickly or slowly, with much effort. Each culture has its own traditions and norms for building trust. Having multiple points of intersection, between culturally diverse people, and community business/organizations they interact with, is to the good.
Attributes of a community connector
I asked Steven what he considers key attributes for someone in the role of community connector. Joy in diversity, positive vision, organizational skills, humour, passion. Steven touches on these and more, in this 2 minute video: (video not displaying? click here)
Want to be a community connector ?
Steven’s advice: Get out, get out in the community. Maybe volunteer to start. Get out the door, out of your comfort zone. We’re such creatures of habit. Get involved with communities that engage your passion. Embrace discomfort. Be with an open heart, especially with parts of the community you are not familiar with. One-size does not fit all.
More about Steven’s work with ICA
There is some really neat stuff being done by ICA, and coordinated by Steven.
The Interfaith Bridging Project is about to enter its 3rd phase. It’s working to nurture connections between the different faith communities and the public with the creation and sharing of food from various faiths and cultures. The work is being done in collaboration with the Victoria Multifaith Society and South Island Dispute Resolution Centre, who is facilitating dialogue activities that complement the sharing of food.
Other initiatives include the Diversity in the Workplace Program, creation of a Community Partnership Network, and coming this fall… Voice and Place (a community photo-documentation project, in collaboration with Luz Gallery), and Fashion Machine (a theatre project for 8 to 10 year olds, in collaboration with Theatre SKAM). Check out the ICA website to learn more.
And for you, the reader: What have you discovered through building connections, in a culturally-diverse community?