Circles of Support and Change

The first year of the Circles of Support and Change Project was about getting organized. The project team members were hired throughout the fall. Hiring local facilitators with strong roots and networks in the community has proven to be a benefit. They continually advocate for their communities and speak to issues such as racism, lack of services, isolation and understand their respective community cultures and historic truths. The local steering committee members were involved in hiring which also added a strong voice for community representation. The Project Coordinator is a member of the original team in Paqt’nkek that implemented the project that is being used as the model for this one.  

Early events included a launch in Canso that was well represented and a good first step in mapping the assets and gaps in the community. What was clear was that formal resources are scarce in the rural communities, but people rely on each other more informally for support. Wellness activities seem to be the priority for the community members, and they have expressed satisfaction with what has been offered. The work at NSCC around awareness raising is going well, but there are some communications challenges working within the NSCC system. In the African Nova Scotian communities, there are two co-facilitators sharing the position. They are working towards developing a sense of Sisterhood in the community through events that focus on creativity, sharing and building trust with the facilitators. Formal asset mapping has not been done. The community feels they have been already consulted about their needs and want more action. 

We have learned that 45% of the participants self-identify as survivors of gender-based violence. Social media is the most common way that people find about the project. Half of the respondents indicated that they have increased their knowledge about services and supports available to victims and survivors in their community (35% said “a lot” and 25% indicated “very much”).

The community face-to-face activities came to an abrupt halt in March 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions. These results only provide insight into less than six or seven months of engagement. Despite those limitations, the project is demonstrating interest, support, and engagement in all three sites. The focus for next year will be to provide more project team learning about the Paqt’nkek toolkit and increase Indigenous knowledge-sharing with the team. There is further work to be done to develop an understanding of the cultural, social, and historic barriers that have prevented African Nova Scotian and isolated victims and survivors from accessing supports.