Trainee Spotlight: Linda McDaniels from Cowichan Intercultural Society

linda.jpgOn March 11 and 12, 15 mid-Island organizers from One Cowichan, Cowichan Intercultural Society and Dogwood BC spent two days learning about the power of storytelling, relationships in organizing and how to build a winning campaign strategy. 
Linda McDaniels from the Cowichan Intercultural Society tells us about her experience at the Organize BC Core Training and organizing for inclusion in her community.

What is your organization or campaign trying to accomplish? What are you going to be applying your training to?
The Cowichan Intercultural Society’s Stand Up for Inclusion initiative (SUFI) is working in collaboration with other local organizations and volunteers in the Cowichan Valley who have committed, as part of Organizing to Address Racism and Hate, to develop a Community Commitment Statement (CCS). Once the CCS is developed we will invite more leaders from diverse organizations, institutions, businesses, and community members, to become signatories of the CCS. By working together, signatories will aspire to role model the values imparted through the CSS, participate in awareness and education campaigns, and develop the capacity to be a response-able community that addresses incidents, and works to extinguish the normalized behaviours of intolerance and hate that weaken our community.  


Why is the Stand Up For Inclusion initiative important to you personally?
This story begins with my childhood where constant bullying was a norm for me until the 7th grade. While unaware of it at the time, the trauma I suffered set me on a life path that was well below my true potential. Luckily, I was gifted with an incredible son, and as many gifted people do, he came with some unusual traits and challenges. One day his preschool teacher suggested he may have Autism and, if I didn’t get him diagnosed before he hit the education system, he would be at the mercy of schoolyard bullies. My reaction was instantaneous as I heard these words - my son would not suffer the same fate as I had, period. So it was that through advocacy, trial, tribulation, education, and finding an inclusive school and community, I successfully provided the safe environments where he, and I, began to thrive and grow. As part of this journey, I came to understand my experience as a marginalized person and how this negatively impacted every aspect of my life. Even more disturbing was the recognition of how many children have their potential limited and their self-worth diminished because of intolerance and/or prejudice related to aspects of their identities such as learning ability, physical ability, race, faith, culture, gender, sexual and gender orientation, economic class and many other differences. To add to this was the realization that not all parents have the capacity to advocate and, even if they did, finding inclusive cultures was no easy task. So it was that I found myself involved in diversity education and community development work; ironically, my passion and my potential was discovered via the very thing that had held me back for so many years. Today, with 15 years on-the-ground experience, education and training, and, with the current surfacing of the world view that perpetrates these intolerant beliefs and behaviours, this is my next call to action. So it is that I am initializing Stand Up for Inclusion as my response and as my ongoing effort to create a world where everyone feels belonging.

What part of the training was most useful or impactful for you? Is there anything you’re going to be doing differently as a result?
I loved the mountain top diagram, it provided a visual and metaphor for how a grand vision can be achieved! I used the diagram at the SUFI development meeting on March 16th to demonstrate how we will reach our mountain top goal of inclusion for all! And I will continue to use this as a way to track our progress - with each nested goal achieved it leads us ever closer to our mountain top vision.

Can you tell us of a favourite moment for you? It might be a story you heard, or a particular activity or concept.
Putting our ‘theory of Change’ into an organizing sentence that was measurable and simple to understand, and then seeing how it fit as a nested goal at the base of our mountain. It was a beautiful weaving that allowed me to hold on to the big picture while also defining the first steps on the road to developing a culture of inclusion!