Community Capacity Building program cohort present equity-focused projects

Projects range from transformative retreats to grief workshops

people standing and extending their arms in a circle, their hands meeting in the middle

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer

SFU Public Square and Lifelong Learning partnered to present Equity in Practice: More Stories of Community Capacity Building on September 9. The event promoted the success of SFU’s Community Capacity Building (CCB) certificate program, featuring five recent cohort learners and their projects. 

The CCB certificate program, created in 2013, is a free program funded by the BC government. Its goal is to help program members build deeper relationships with [themselves], community and the land, and to move forward the change [they’d] like to see in the world.” 

Yvonne Rigsby Jones, the program’s class Elder, opened the event by giving a blessing for all presenters and attendees. She concluded with an acknowledgement of SFU’s work towards reconciliation with Indigenous communities. 

“Having me here today is a true act of [reconciliation in] practice,” said Jones, “[SFU] invites Indigenous teachings to the work that they do, they don’t just tokenize the work.”

The five presentations were moderated by Vanessa Richards, an instructor for the CCB certificate program. She explained the program was created as a way to create opportunities, connections, and support for communities. 

“I suppose you could say [the last couple of years] has been ‘the worst of times and the best of times’ to quote Dickens in his Tale of Two Cities and some of what we’re trying to do in CCB is start to massage the worst and the best so that we might have a tale of one people, and one place, together.”

Sarah Common, co-founder of Hives for Humanity, talked about their Garden of Care initiative to bring the Hastings Folk Garden under Community Land Trust. This action, if achieved successfully, would make the space unavailable for market transactions and place it “into community-led governance.” 

Lystra Germaine Sam, the founder of QmooniTi, talked about her newest project, Sisters Leading Sisters , which focuses on rest as a tool of colonial resistance. BIPOC women are invited to go to Sisters Leading Sisters for transformative retreats of rest and connection. The program also offers “financial support, computers, educational tools, healing, scholarships” in addition to relaxation retreats.  

“When Black and Indigenous women at all of our intersections are free, then so shall everyone else,” said Sam.

Maria Dela Cruz, systems change community developer, spoke about her pro bono coaching work. She coaches women, femmes, and youth during times of transition.

“The work I’m most focused on is to consider what the impacts have been of colonization, patriarchy, capitalism, and white-body supremacy,” said Dela Cruz. “They have truly limited our capacity especially for Black, Indigenous, and racialized folks like myself.”

Certified coach Fawziah Bhatia and community leader Vicki Wang, presented their project called Curiko. Curiko is a program that aims to build a “community of people with and without disabilities” in moments of connection that help facilitate belonging for all. 

Closing off the presentations, Romila Barryman, death doula, introduced Jiwa, a grief collective “exploring the interconnectedness of loss by connecting future ancestors back into the wisdom and care of their hyperlocal communities and each other.” Programs at Jiwa last eight weeks with a mission “to create closed, continuous and cross-collaborative opportunities for remembering while exploring our positionality on stolen land.” 

Richards closed the event with an acknowledgement of the group’s diversity, “We put together what we thought would be a really dynamic grouping of people where not everybody was the same. And what we learned together from each other was remarkably rich.” 

Students who wish to find out more about the CCB certificate program can do so at SFU Continuing Studies’ website.