Building community in Hamilton

Pat Reid, a member of the Hamilton Baha’i community. © Geoffrey Cameron Hamilton, Ontario, 4 January 2013 (CBNS) — “My understanding of poverty is that it’s the pits,” says Pat Reid, a member of the Hamilton Baha’i community.

Pat serves on her neighbourhood planning committee, and she is a member of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction. She knows firsthand what it means to experience poverty.

“Spiritual poverty can go hand in hand with economic poverty. We really have to address the gross materialism and the huge profits and gaps between the rich and the poor.

“On the other hand, there has to be the ability to assist the people living in poverty to gain self-worth and purpose. They are put down and demeaned so often that they give up and don’t want to try any more. . . . We can help to build self-esteem and confidence and build their voice to be heard and to do things for themselves.”

Seven years ago, Pat started a devotional gathering in her neighbourhood. “It wasn’t me who suggested starting a multi-faith devotional gathering,” she says. “It was a neighbour [who suggested it]. It’s such a diverse neighbourhood and people didn’t know each other.” Pat still hosts prayers at her home every Monday.

Then, two years ago, she collaborated with a few friends in the neighbourhood to start a class for the spiritual education of children. “We had only one child for a year,” she says.

“But now about 18 children have attended the class. There are now three grades and a junior youth empowerment group. The parents are positive about the class and encourage their children to come. Last week a parent asked us to talk to their children about fighting. The parents recognize that we have an influence on the children. I was really pleased at that.”

Reflecting on the contribution of these activities to community-building in her neighbourhood, Pat says, “I think the significance of these activities is that the young people are learning values and skills that can help them in their everyday life, and finding those teachable moments when they happen is really important. I’m seeing people that are helping to facilitate the junior youth program that are not Baha’i and I’m really thrilled by that.”

In November 2012, Pat was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of her service to her community. She was nominated by Wayne Marston, Member of Parliament for Hamilton East–Stoney Creek.

Pat says that her hope for the future is that “we have more people . . . becoming involved, and being of service to others, and seeing their self-worth and nobility. . . . I really want to see this community have their voice and be willing to step up when they see injustice or something going wrong. It’s not easy for people who are rejected and put down a lot.

“We may not see direct results in the short term, but in the long term there are profound changes. We are so used to instant gratification, but it is all about process and these things take time”.