“What do you want to do?”
That was the question Nadira posed to residents in Regent Park when she started working as an Advocacy Mentor with Fred Victor in 2014.
There were growing concerns from newcomer parents as they saw the prevalence of drugs and violence in their neighbourhood, in addition to the economic and cultural barriers they faced.
Nadira explains, “I came here and saw the lack of information among parents. There were huge gaps. If we don’t know the information, we cannot navigate the system. And we’ll be left behind.”
Based on her discussions, Nadira wanted to create a support program that was relevant, impactful, and driven by the residents themselves. Together, they would decide which issues to address and what steps to take – and together, they called themselves the Parent Action Group.
Starting as a handful of engaged parents in the Regent Park area, they grew into a diverse group of roughly 30 regular members. They meet around common goals, working toward long-lasting positive change in their community.
When the pandemic hit, the need for a highly mobilized group like theirs was crucial.
Using the online meeting platform Zoom, the Parent Action Group extended its reach and shared useful resources with the broader community – such as mental health supports, places to access healthy food, and up-to-date information about COVID-19.
Maseeda is the Advocacy Coordinator at Fred Victor and simply says, “Advocacy is one of the most important components to survival.”
She elaborates by describing an incident that occurred at the start of the pandemic. A young mother with a newborn came to her for help. She was trying to escape an abusive relationship and was seeking priority housing for women experiencing domestic violence.
At a time when most offices were closed, Maseeda and her team made all the necessary connections to ensure the woman and her baby got into a safe place.
This frontline advocacy saves lives.
Nadira puts it this way, “When you see the real-life impact – and people come up to you to say that the information you provided was really helpful – I am proud. Maybe I can’t change society, but I can contribute something to my community.”