The Occupy Montreal protest on the weekend, part of a protest movement worldwide against economic inequality, got me thinking about what we can all do to make a difference in our communities. We may not be the one per cent controlling the world’s wealth, economic policies and governments but we are not powerless.
Here are some concrete actions anyone can do to help people in their own community. I live in Montreal’s NDG neighbourhood and some of these examples are very local but I’m sure these ideas can be transplanted fairly easily.
- Donate your money or your time to an organization that feeds low income people in your neighbourhood. Many community groups accept monthly donations or have wish lists of needed items. You can even pay for meals-on-wheels plans for seniors and shut-ins who can’t afford it. Volunteer, even it’s only for a few hours a week.
- When I worked with tenants in social housing I used to meet seniors who were having trouble paying monthly phone bills. Some even gave up their phone service. If you get a chance to befriend a senior, especially someone who is low income, there are always small things you can do to make their life easier. Buy stamps if they like to send letters, you could even anonymously make payments on their phone bill. Bring them food, if they’re open to that. Or simply offer your time and a listening ear.
- Instead of supporting big corporations when you buy household cleaning products, make your own household cleaner. Here’s a recipe for an all-purpose cleaner: 1/4 cup vinegar, 1 tbsp. borax and 1 tbsp. vegetable-based liquid soap (recipe courtesy City of Montreal and Eco-quartier NDG)
- As much as possible, buy your produce directly from farmers. Visit your local farmer’s market or sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture basket. You can also get a basket from Lufa Farms or sign up for a Good Food Box. In NDG farmers run a stand every Thursday evening at the Coop La Maison Verte. You can buy local produce at organic food stores and health food stores or even fruit stores. Whatever you do, try to avoid food from mega-farms.
- Help Head and Hands save its Street Workers program. Reaching out to youth to give them a listening ear and let them know about community resources was something Head and Hands’ two streetworkers did until funding was cut in August. Letting youth know safe ways of handling peer pressure and issues including sex and drugs is crucial. So is giving them a safe place to talk about living below the poverty line, housing, gangs and relations with the police and the greater community. This week Head and Hands issued a letter that reads in part: “Every year our street workers have worked towards Hepatitis C and HIV prevention by distributing hundreds of clean needles and thousands of condoms. They have also provided education and support to countless youth who otherwise may not have accessed our services. Without the Street Work program, we are no longer able to provide clean needles and crack gear, our emergency food pantry, or metro tickets. Our presence in bars, hotels, metros, group homes, and the streets of NDG has been heavily impacted…”
- Support your library’s computer centre. Sure there’s a digital divide and some people don’t own a computer or have Internet access. But if you donate your money or your time to, for instance, the Atwater Library and Computer Centre, you’ll make a difference. The Computer Centre offers computers for rent and “workshops that help young and old master computers, the Internet and digital media.”
- Donate your old computer to Techno-Écolo, a community project that teaches youth how to rebuild old computers and gives old computers a second life.
- Support local businesses by shopping in your neighbourhood.
- Donate your old bicycle to Cyclo Nord-Sud, an organization that sends bicycles to developing countries where they often serve as key means of transportation . In exchange for the bicycle and $15 0r more to cover shipping costs, you receive a charitable tax receipt for the value of the bicycle plus the cash donation and the satisfaction of knowing that old bicycle will help someone get around. A bicycle collection drive takes place this Sunday, Oct. 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Coop La Maison Verte, 5785 Sherbrooke St. W
- Join or start your own chapter of the Awesome Foundation.