A few weeks ago, it was a question I was asking myself. Toronto had rain. A downpour with thunderstorm-after-thunderstorm and flood warnings city-wide. I was at a bus terminal once again, sitting on top of my two black suitcases and plagued with doubt.
On paper, Challenge for Change (C4C) sounded terrific. C4C aims to engage Canadians across the country in conversation. I was joining a team of journalists and facilitators who were working and travelling on VIA trains all summer. Thrilling, right?
I’ll admit, it took me a few days to dry off and appreciate the opportunity. More specifically, I think it took Louann and Jenni.
Louann and Jenni are a mother-daughter duo. They participated in C4C out west by having a deeply personal conversation with one of our facilitators present to record it. We hail from the same area – British Columbia – but my experience of home was much different. In the conversation, I learned that Jenni was put into foster care in her early teens due to several challenges – housing, mental health supports, etc. While they talk, Louann answers many of her daughter’s unresolved questions about life, loss, love and what led her into foster care.
Brielle Morgan was the conversation’s facilitator. Brielle is a journalist at Discourse Media, which is C4C’s partner in Vancouver, BC (Check out her journal entries too!). She came out to train our team in May and, with Jenni and Louann’s permission, Brielle trusted their story to us.
The team was editing different conversations – myself and Karissa, another C4C member, decided to edit Louann and Jenni’s conversation. Another confession: I had no clue what their story was about at first. I had arrived five minutes late to work (yes, to get a coffee – I’m sorry) and I snuck into our morning meeting. I knew we were editing all day but I missed our Director’s description and summary of the conversations. When I sat down at the computer after the meeting, I picked a file at random. And then I was glued to the computer all day. The conversation between mother and daughter was mesmerizing and powerful.
Jenni and Louann talked about their relationship and experiences and the conversation made me question some of my deeper assumptions. And that was their goal. That’s what these women wanted to do. With me, they achieved that tenfold. They shared a journey that was profound, and painful, – but mostly? Inspiring. We’ve never met, and likely never will, but I am grateful for their story.
It is going to be about relationships, from start-to-finish, sound-check to story post.
Despite having the same original recording, Karissa and I came out of the edit room with different focuses for Jenni and Louann’s story. While at first it presented a challenge, I think, in the end, it strengthened the piece. Together, we crafted a dynamic story that captures Louann and Jenni’s experience – hopefully, as they would have wanted. (As a note: We are hoping to share this story with you soon. Jenni is currently “aging out” of government care so we are waiting to confirm permission from her official caregiver prior to publishing). Other C4C colleagues helped with music selections and gave guidance on the production. Overall, it was a team effort and one which made me understand the nature of this project more. It is going to be about relationships, from start-to-finish, sound-check to story post.
Of course, there will be light, humorous, down-right-bizarre moments and plenty of joy. But there will also be painful reflections and explorations. We’re really asking people to bare their souls, if they’re willing so that other Canadians can share their journeys and deepen their understanding of life experiences different from their own. And maybe, just maybe, perspectives will shift and minds will change about something. The only thing that comes with that is gratitude, for me.
In their conversation, Jenni and Louann mention the idea of “Level 10” – or an excellent, top-notch score it seems. So whatever our “Level 10” might be as a C4C team, I think we should strive for it every day.