Elizabeth Court (Elizabeth Fry Society) - making new legends and social connections

This mapping workshop brought the largest group of women and children together over dinner at  Elizabeth Court. The individual mapping process produced a series of creative and personal maps including mobility maps for people with disability and even a treasure map made by a 5 and 7 year old. 

An Elizabeth Court resident creates her legend on her map. 

An Elizabeth Court resident creates her legend on her map. 

Hilltop Court Housing Elizabeth Fry Society - talking about transitions over lasagna

The lasagna and salads were such a success the week before at Elizabeth Court, we placed the same order to be delivered to our workshop at Hilltop Court on the North Shore. We ordered less as there were just too many leftovers to take home. This time, about 12 women and up to 5 children joined us for dinner and the mapping workshop, Jacqueline, the housing coordinator, personally invited many of the women. Here, we met women from many walks of life - but most who were in transition. Some were new to the city fleeing domestic abuse and others were transitioning back into their families after incarceration. Many had children and all expressed how safe they felt at Hilltop. Again, these were very confident and knowledgeable women who offered their time and expertise to us. 

The individual maps scattered across the tables largely served as placemats for the Italian dinner! A few women off to the side spoke quietly and individually with Emily and Laurel, while the main table shouted out directions to me for what I should mark down on the large map. It was clear these women knew how important this knowledge was to share. We marked many of the emergency community services that the other groups had listed, particularly those on North Shore that were relatively close to their homes. The library was important as was Ask Wellness - both which have branches on south and north shores for access. 

A clear and deliberate list of services was provided at Hilltop as specialist knowledge for other women in transition:

  • Family Tree Services
  • ASK Wellnes
  • Interior Community Services
  • Pregnancy Care Centre
  • Crossroads Inn
  • John Tod Centre

A longer discussion focused on the services of Family Tree. One woman was a volunteer mentor there now, having previously benefited from the integrated services. Family Tree was a 'one stop shop' unlike many of the others - 'running here for this or across town for that.' Without wanting to be too specific, the women explained that some of the good services had 'bad guys' running them. WHY ARE THERE NO WOMEN SPECIFIC SERVICES? If you have previously experienced trauma from violence or additions, you are not going to feel safe when they have to go to places where you have to be around active drug users or aggressive men. 

One women explained that she did not feel safe anywhere other than inside her apartment and another woman expressed the opposite. There was no where in Kamloops that she "felt unsafe." "But when you are with your children, that's another story," she told us.

Another two great suggestions came from this group. 1. Lets make this map available to all women on the street. We started working on design ideas for a social enterprise project to make over the shoulder courier bags - practical, durable and fashionable - with all the emergency information one might need printed on the inside. We could load it up with emergency supplies like vaginal cups, baby wipes, toothbrush, clean undies and socks and a few food items. 2. A food service map should be created as a separate thing. This is an issue about food security and access to programs but also to public fruit trees and gardens.  

This group had many divergent responses and became animated in discussion with each other. Later, I was told that this group did not often get a chance to get together - alway busy with children and work. The conversational element of the mapping project had intrinsic value and was successful as a social engagement project. 

My Place Day Shelter - support services and community knowledge exchange

When I first spoke to Cynthia on the phone before meeting her, she introduced herself as the voice of the homeless. She told me one of her roles was as the Outreach Coordinator for My Place Day Shelter. Described as a safe, secure and friendly space, My Place is located on the North Shore in a community centre near MacDonald Park. Its been running for about 5 or 6 years - created by a shared vision of a number of organizations that saw a gap. They run lunches on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and also provide a range of support services including advice on housing, hospital and other local information. Some people are homeless that visit My Place, many ex-homeless and others could be described as wealthy. Its a very different crowd than JUMP where clients are mostly homeless. People come together at My Place for a shared meal and to network information. 

Cynthia greeted us at the door, introduced us to a few folks who had arrived already and immediately set us to work. My Place functions as a well oiled machine as once the crowd comes in, people need to be served food and offered other personal goods in a hospitable and professional way. People had brought boxes of crackers, condoms, toiletries, and other snacks to share with the community. We helped some of the other volunteers to set up tables and chairs. Another woman and I tried to figure out how to make coffee and find out where the sugar was. 

We had been set up in a quiet side room again that functioned as a women's space, outside of the hustle and bustle of the lunch room. A large table had about 8 chairs around it with small personal maps and markers set out for participants to use. Stickers were ready for folks to transfer their content to the large 6 foot black and white map on the wall. The women came to sit together after having lunch. Many stayed for the full 2 hours - after telling us their stories, they listened to each others, and witnessed the public process of locating the transfer of this knowledge onto the wall map. 

Not many of the women at My Place knew each other and a few took it upon themselves to introduce each other and, as 'old timers,' share important street knowledge to the 'new comers'. A woman who described herself as 'new to town,' drew lines along her walking paths where she saw beauty... all the way down the hill from Aberdeen to the end of downtown where the health services and library are located. She said it only took 20 minutes to get down, but 43 minutes to walk back up. She thought there was beauty and safety at the shopping malls - looking out from high up and with many people, even thought they were strangers she like to be around other people. Another woman marked a number of community services including a local church, the Family Tree and AA meetings that were useful to her. She also discussed Canadian Mental Health Services and  Kamloops Mental Health & Addiction Services & Emergency Response but also had concern that there was not always a women working. She went on to describe places of beauty - place she and her children used to go to - peppered across the city. After annotating the map in detail, she drew a big circle around the whole page in black and asked - how is that there can be beauty here and there when I feel fear all around this city all the time? Another participant held her hand and talked through her concerns quietly. 

As we were packing up to leave, a few energetic women stopped in to help us out. These two gals had a lot of experience on the street and told me it was important to document the bad Johns and places where they drop off the girls. Sticking a number of black Xs on the the map, she told us, "if you are in a car and its headed to Mission Flats, get out, break the window if you have to. Thats where they find the girls drugged, beaten up or worse...." Another woman explains that that was where she used to take her dogs on long walks before her accident. We each had our own perceptions of the places marked as unsafe. I felt honored when one woman came back to thank you hug for giving her 'an opportunity to talk about the beauty that is everywhere', placing her sobriety chip into the palm of my hand with a little squeeze.  

Research Week at TRU - pop up workshops and class visits

As part of TRU Research Week, we were invited to host a pop up workshop and we also attended a number of classes including the art students and the tourism class. 

Being hosted at Thompson Rivers University during Research Week meant high participation numbers - we had hundreds of women from all backgrounds and communities join us to share reflections on Kamloops.

Beginning with a pop-up workshop in the always busy Student Street of Old Main, we had many women drop in between coffee, lunch, class and all those other student activities. TRU serves nearly 26,000 students total of which 10.2% are international and 9.9% are Aboriginal, and many grew up in Kamloops. This diversity informed the map making and encouraged lively discussion among participants. Many students were new to Kamloops and hadn't yet experienced much beyond the TRU campus, whereas others have grown up here and have become much acquainted with the area.

Some students came prepared - hearing about our workshop and project through the #mytru hashtag and TRU Research Twitter. Otherwise, they came on a whim but were excited to share.

One immediate theme that became apparent is the social nature of safety and beauty. Communities across the city have been realized and it is in these pockets of friends, family, and shared interests where we witnessed beauty grow. One participant witnesses beauty coming to life when she visits the Sikh Temple on Cambridge Crescent.

Sikh Temple

The connections that women forge in new communities came out almost immediately as well. A TRU Sorority began a collaborative map together, sharing the spaces and neighborhoods they get together in as spaces of safety. Safety, for these contributors, were the women they met while at school and who were on hand whenever needed. Safety is the friends who had been there countless times before and would be there to support one another at the drop of the hat. Safety are the connections made in a new city with other women seeking their own adventures.

Working with a changing group as women come and went allowed us to reflect on our shared appreciation and our familiarity with the spaces around us. As many students were new to Kamloops, they may have felt as though they did not have much to share about the city, but quickly our large map got covered in blue for beauty. The hills, parks, and green areas radiated blue as so many contributors thought of the excellent views from Kamloops and the green space they visit for study breaks.


Social Work Students at Thompson Rivers University: self defense training and great discussion

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Our workshop with the Social Work Students was organized by Theresa - a practicum student at United Way. Their school club had organized a women's self defense workshop on a Sunday morning in the basement gym. Four very engaged female student worked firstly on their own maps and together discussed their map points as they shared with the group. We enjoyed lunch together as they were pumped up and had just undergone serious physical training.  

A number of community services that were identified including a broad range of policy, bus, and activity centers such as Lii Michif Otipemisiwak family centre. These are important services but different that what other students had located. This included White Buffalo Aboriginal and Metis Health Society, John Tod Wellness Centre, and People in Motion which provides services for people with disabilities including fitness, recreational, educational and social programs and  services. This group were familiar with a wide range of community services because of their engagement with the professional in field, rather than as users of the services.

Critical discussions ensured regarding perceptions of safety amongst the group of women. There were more general discussions about walking alone or in a crowd and the difference in how one felt between day and night. Personal experiences were shared including the fear of underground parking lots and other situations where the women had felt vulnerable.  


JUMP North Shore Lunch Program: a women's room and visualizing expressions of 'symbolic social beauty'

Our first workshop at JUMP engaged approximately 12 women including women who have or do experience homelessness, students and a number of volunteers.  Emily and Marnie were invited to JUMP North Shore Lunch Program to deliver our first community mapping workshop on a Tuesday between meal service. Armed with a tool box full of art supplied (paints, brushes, pencils, coloured markers, stickers) and a roll of maps as tall as a human, we arrived at JUMP. It was one of the nice first days at the end of winter and was shining. A few men stood outside enjoying the weather and waved us in to find Cynthia our host. 

Even though we arrived after lunch on a Tuesday, the place was bustling with community members visiting over coffee and volunteers preparing for the next meal. There were at least 6 student volunteers, including a visiting researcher from China, who help to cook and clean but also benefit from the food distribution.  Cynthia introduced us to Brenda who runs the program and also Glenn Hilke. After an engaging orientation conversation with Glenn, we set up the maps and supplies in the side room. Cynthia helped us get physically organized and invited women to join us around the long tables. As this was our first workshop, our game plan was to work with individual women with individual small maps and then bring the group together to discus their experiences while transferring the content onto the large map. On reflection, this side room created a quiet and more private studio space for women to engage.

They came through the door one by one by Cynthia's invitation. After a personal introduction, we would sit with each woman listening to her stories as she marked out places and memories. In this workshop, we used acrylic paint and women colored in areas, made long brushstrokes following along pathways they walked, and some added text to mark important locations and services in ink. Words like 'beauty' were used to describe memories of daughters and husbands passed or areas they liked to spend time in because of the friendliness of people. They visualized these feelings mixing paint with water to create a wash over an entire neighborhood or up in the hills. This 'symbolic social' representation of beauty Others focused on providing advice to other women about unsafe places: "there is broken glass and dirty needles under the bridge" but also places of beauty mapping walks up through the hills.  

Paint was a useful medium to visualize the mixed responses some women had for the same place - we could layer the color red over yellow to show beauty at a community service. Others could add black to mark their concerns about not feeling safe at some services due to their concerns about interacting with particular staff members or other clients. Once completing their personal individual map, the women or the artists would transfer the content onto the larger map sitting on the table top which was later moved to the wall for others to see. The map stayed at JUMP for a few weeks on display for community. 

There was a diversity of experiences, knowledge and expressions of this - across ages, interests, culture and socio economic status. Many did not know each other, but were connected by JUMP over the months and years as a community program and by Cynthia. Later we observed in the final large map on the wall positioned above the piano, that the group at JUMP made marks over the entirety of the map - they were highly mobile across the city, North Shore and Reserve.