A Prophet Returns

Allan David Smith-Reeve, July 7th, 2018

This week Lynn returned to Bobcaygeon where for 17 years she lived in poverty.

It’s been seven years since Lynn left Bobcaygeon with a Life Plan.

With no post secondary education. With no resume – because caring for a chronically ill husband for 17 years and Home-educating five children from kindergarten through high school isn’t considered a career. All that work at home doesn’t qualify you for Employment Insurance, a government retraining program, or even Ontario Works unless you’re completely broke.

Lynn left Bobcaygeon with only a plan – and the faithful encouragement of a small circle of friends.

That small circle of friends is what we are celebrating today. That small circle grew into several small circles of friends. Each circle with its own purpose.

A small circle supported her in securing part time employment. Lynn worked part time at churches who recognized her talents.

A small circle supported her in her educational goals. Lynn spent five years training as an educator and community developer, graduating with a diploma to qualify her for Diaconal Ministry in the United Church.

A small circle supported the creation of an organization that could bring together individuals for learning and action. Bedford House Community Ministry was born.

Seven years later, Lynn is trained to deliver workshops in the Bridges Out of Poverty framework. Not only does she have the training credential but even more valuable for this work – she has the lived-experience. Over 45 social workers and food bank volunteers spent a day training with Lynn in the Bridges out of Poverty workshop.

The Bridges framework asks “Why don’t Middle-class solutions work for so many people in Poverty?” The workshop offers the thinking that people in poverty are experts at problem-solving, stretching scant resources, and negotiating the demands of a system that is supposed to help but is often stretched too thin.

Bridges also offers an analysis of the divide between their long-view middle-class solutions and the realities of the day-to-day juggling act of a life in poverty.

Stories are at the heart of the workshop and Lynn has lots of stories to tell. Stories about how good people tried to help but didn’t understand the barriers. Stories about how social workers had good advice to offer but hadn’t walked in her shoes to know that what might work for them – just didn’t apply to her situation.

And now she has a story to tell about Bridging Teams.

About how mentors are trained by low-income participants to see the lives that are lived beneath our biases and assumptions.  

About how mentors learn to ask good questions first and give advice second.

About how the power of a supportive group of people working together can “bridge” the differences in the lives of people living with more than enough and those living with less than enough.

To hear some of Lynn’s stories get in touch at bedfordhouse551@gmail.com.

To support a low-income leader with a $25 pat on the back this week…