Shava is a community organizer of More Moss Park

Zach Lewsen —

Shava, one of five Community Organizers on the More Moss Park team, talked to us about her passions, personal experiences and – most of all – her connection to Moss Park. She speaks about how and why she became involved in the new project.

ShavaThe first time I visited Moss Park was…

A couple weeks after I moved into the neighbourhood from Jamaica, having no family and few acquaintances in this city, I wanted to see who my neighbours were. I was a bit nervous because I really didn’t know anyone and didn’t know my way around. So I went out for a stroll with my GPS and Google Maps app open on my phone. I ended up at the John Innes Community & Recreation Centre. I looked around and asked a staff member how I could volunteer. I then met Youth Outreach Worker Devin Fan, he was very excited about my sports background and the many ways I could use it to empower my new community—it was at that moment that I felt welcomed.

I wanted to become involved with the More Moss Park consultation because…

This project resonates with me on multiple levels. I am a resident of the community and the project is coming from an organization—The 519—that has years of experience in working and supporting various marginalized groups. The project promotes inclusion, community ownership and healthy, active living. This core principle aligns with my passion for empowering young girls and marginalized women through sports and physical activities. This consultation gave my neighbours an opportunity to be more than just a single mom, a taxpayer, refugee, a homeless youth or a sex worker. They became voices that spoke volumes, that use their realities to help shape and inform what the space should look like. I wanted to be a part of a project that has the potential to create an anchor to ensure that even when the neighbourhood changes, the centre will still respond to the needs of the community in a way that is meaningful and beneficial.

My favourite spot in the park is…

The baseball diamond. Honestly, I don’t know how to play baseball, but when I hear the folks at Maxwell Meighen Shelter talk about how they played there in a shelter league, I see the smiles on their faces. It’s like they were re-living that moment as they relayed tidbits of their stories, like how they dashed out of their shoes to make a home run or how one guy hit the ball every time so fast that no one could keep up with its speed. Hearing people recount these memories makes the baseball diamond my favourite place because it brings people together. It allows these marginalized men an avenue to navigate through their struggles and their dissimilarities in a way that is therapeutic and responsive to aspects of health and wellness–while these men laugh, play and move across social and economic boundaries.

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve talked to…

Oh gosh. It’s hard to remember them all because I’ve spoken to so many organizations and residents. This week, I’ve spoken to Sound Times, Neighbourhood Information Post Toronto and a youth worker from John Innes. One of the discussions that came out of my meeting with Sound Times was the need for service providers in the vicinity to connect with each other in a way that will have a far reaching impact on the communities that they all serve. The line of dialogue is open and continuous; we are still looking to have discussions with residents and organizations that we have yet to engage.

Shava Post PhotoThe moment that stands out the most in my mind from the consultation process

From a few weeks ago when a resident said, “it would be so cool to be able to say to my friends that, ya, there’s Wi-Fi or water fountains because my friends and I suggested it. It feels so cool to be connected like this.” It goes to show that some residents can already relate to the project in a way where they feel included, having both a voice and a feeling of community ownership. Another moment that stood out for me was in a focus group when one of the participants said, “We can’t forget about the people around here without a home. I know their story. It was my story too. I’m a human and so are they. They need more support to get where they want to go.” This comment runs deep. I feel it and this is part of what the project is about: equity, social justice and inclusion.

The question I get asked the most is…

When will this happen? I’ve gotten this a few times. It stood out in my mind when an older lady asked this question, wondering if she’ll be alive to see the project completed. She really wanted to be part of this project and to see it happen.

May 19 (2)

The best thing about being a community organizer is…

Having the opportunity to capture and document some of the views and concerns of community members and bringing it all to the foreground. I’ve also enjoyed being able to connect and develop relationships with residents. I love interacting with them, like when we did some Zumba dance classes. Another important thing for me is having an open and continuous line of communication with residents and organizations in the community, with folks feeling comfortable to approach me whether or not I’m on the clock.

June 18 team up to clean up (3)

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