Things to remember in tough times

Between the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, increasing action and attention around racial justice and police violence, and the blanket of smoke resulting from the tragic fires wreaking havoc in California, Oregon, and Washington, I am reminded of the extent to which we are all inextricably connected on this small planet of ours. And this confluence of extreme crises also serves to remind me that taking care of ourselves requires us to also consider the needs of those around us who are sharing our unique and fragile home.

After months of confusion and worry, the added anxiety of young people returning to school and child care is something I know all of you are feeling very acutely right now. Each of us needs to balance the needs of our families with the needs of our communities and that is a daunting task to add on top of everything else. And that is why I want to take a moment to once again remind you of everything you have overcome and accomplished over the past six months.

It has been a privilege to experience the tremendous leadership, care, and compassion that you bring your work each and every day. Yes, the new school year is one more challenge in an already challenging year. And the fall weather which will keep more of us inside and the flu season that will follow are challenges we will have to face down the road. But I hope you all remember to pause and take a look back from time to time to remind yourself of everything you have accomplished and overcome since March. I believe that acknowledging and celebrating what you have done will give you renewed courage and confidence in yourselves and each other.

It would be a disservice to ignore the promise and hope embodied within the achievements taking place across our province and our country in spite of (and because of) the unprecedented circumstances we are managing to overcome. Our federal government is taking a very serious look at a guaranteed income for all Canadians. Ottawa and the provinces are developing a national plan for paid sick leave. Our province has called together an all-party committee to reform the Police Act (to which The Federation will be presenting; stay tuned for more info). Although not permanent or as large as we had hoped, people with disabilities in BC have seen a significant lift to their assistance rates (thanks to years of advocacy). The community social services sector (represented by The Federation) was selected to sit on the Premier’s Economic Recovery Task Force.

And as delighted as I am about these examples of social progress, I am even more heartened by the individual stories of compassion and commitment that our members are sharing. Stories about staff volunteering for longer shifts to ensure vulnerable community members are cared for if they become ill. Stories about innovative and creative ways of serving clients that are making a very real difference in the lives of your community members. Stories of organizations cooperating and supporting one another in new and nimble ways that have had a significant impact.

You are seen and valued by everyone in this Federation even if you may forget that sometimes. And that is not all. When I sit at the Economic Recovery Task Force, my partners in business and labour see you and recognize and speak about the incredible contributions the community social services sector has made during these trying times. Perhaps never before has the importance of our sector been so very recognized and understood and that is because of you.

As I look back, I am also aware of how much The Federation has grown over the past few months. We have learned about ourselves and how best to support you, our members. We’ve pushed ourselves to be more available, we’ve embraced new ways of gathering, and we’ve made a point of sharing as much good news as bad (including a very popular addition to the sector news emails).

So as things continue to shift and change over the coming weeks and months, rest assured that we will continue to be here for you—offering whatever we can, whenever you need it. And remember that the things you are doing today will have positive long-term effects that will last well beyond the troubling times that inspired them.

Thank you for ensuring that your programs and services continue to operate in the spirit with which they were created. Thank you for going above and beyond in a time of unprecedented crisis. And thank you for your patience and compassion and creativity—for living into what altogether better is all about.

Rick FitzZaland
Executive Director