12 Days of YEG: Support Your Local Community this Holiday Season

Ways to Support Your Local Community

Winter is a tough time for so many people, especially during the holiday season. And a tough holiday season to cap off the year that was 2020? Whew. 

This pandemic is disproportionately affecting many of those already impacted by systematic oppression. Even before COVID, we understood that health, social and economic burdens are felt disproportionately by those affected by colonialism, racism, ageism, homophobia and transphobia, and other factors. Intersectionality recognizes the interconnected nature of social and economic factors related to race, class, and gender and how they can apply overlapping negative effects, especially at this time.

Today we’re here to talk about a few ways you can use your dollars, your time, and your voice to help your local community members this season. We believe that shared acts of community solidarity are truly the only thing that will see us to the other side. 

In a city already so full of local goodness, our grassroots and non-profits in Edmonton are well-equipped to harness the power of community for the social welfare and civic improvement of our city. Unfortunately, many of these collectives lost opportunities this year for fundraising events and social activations, in addition to several organizations losing government funding over the past year.

If you’re at a loss of how to start supporting community members, consider where you are allocating your valuable time. Take the time to research those organizations that interest you, learn about their missions, their goals, and other organizations they partner with. Then, look into how you can volunteer to assist in these goals. Back in May, we published several articles listing how you can help various organizations in the community, including supports for local youth, caremongering efforts, and resources to help those most at risk of falling through the cracks. Also check out the Alberta Cares Connector, a new platform designed to connect Albertans who want to help with local volunteer and community service opportunities.

On the subject of where to spend your time, consider also reading up so you are able to speak to your peers how women, gender and sexual minorities, and those with unstable housing status, age and prior health condition, and income status/poverty (among other variables) intersect to heighten the negative health, social, emotional and economic impacts of this pandemic. As you learn and engage, we would also encourage you to think deeply about how you personally can take action to care for our communities and work to dismantle systems of oppression that mean that the privilege of the few is prioritized over the needs and dreams of the many.

Wealth redistribution is an essential part of community solidarity. For those of us who indirectly benefit from a long history of colonization, white supremacy, etc., it is imperative to consider where and how to share the effects of economic privilege. A monetary donation can go so far to help those who are, and who are working with, those disproportionately affected by social and economic disadvantages. The Edmonton Journal has a list of local charities that could use your help.

We also urge you to think of the vulnerable members of our community: to be unhoused in an Edmonton winter is a difficult experience. Though Camp Pekiwewin was shut down, earlier this autumn we published an interview exploring how the camp became the largest shelter space for the houseless community of Amiskwaciwâskahikan through direct action.

We encourage you to continue the spirit of direct action in community solidarity and donate funds directly to a local shelter or support organizations such as WINhouse, Boyle Street Community Services, The Mustard Seed, Bissell Centre, or Youth Empowerment & Support Services so they can continue to provide necessities to those most at risk during this time of crisis. Looking for a gift for a loved one? Donate to the Edmonton Food Bank in their name.

Better yet, donate directly to individuals you see in need. Cash seems archaic in the midst of a pandemic but to some, it is a lifeline. As well, Treaty 6 Outreach have shared great ideas for what to include in community care packages (also consider sending them an e-transfer treaty6outreach@gmail.com).

Never forget that your voice is a powerful force: you can use your privilege today to amplify the needs of at-risk and marginalized populations by sending an email, writing a letter, or sending a direct message through social media to your local Councillor, MLA, or MP. Lastly, take some time to think about the people closest to you. Do you know anyone that could use assistance? Is someone you care about in need of some kindness? Try to think of something you could do to brighten their day or help them feel safer in this uncertain time.

The pandemic has illuminated the vulnerability and precarious situation of at-risk seniors, often with complex health challenges, who can face isolation and fear amid lockdowns. This holiday season, make or sign a card, or write a letter to send to someone in isolation. The Greater Edmonton Foundation operates facilities throughout the city, and we’ve included an address where you can send your well-wishes in this article.

You can also use this time to get to know some of the neighbours that you might not have gotten a chance to know before isolating. Now is the perfect time to slow-down and make new connections in your neighbourhood. For more ideas, follow some other popular feeds for Edmonton through your social accounts, for instance, #yeglocal or #yeghelps, or the community league social media feed for your neighbourhood.