In this Q&A, the third in a series of conversations with Community Living Brant staff, we speak with community organizer Jenna Nieman. We discuss the shifts that staff are seeing in community as we all begin to journey outside our homes and comfort zones amid lifting pandemic mandates.
This transcript was edited for readability. This interview is also available in audio format at the bottom of this post.
Q: What are the dynamics that you’re noticing in community as we come out of mandates?
It’s easy for us to notice, because we’re in community a lot, that people are feeling more hopeful and positive. We’re seeing a lot of activity. We’re seeing a shift in energy. For me, the shift in energy is resonating the most. Seeing the way that people are excited. We’re seeing more people out in community, or in-person exchanges. For the most part, people that we talk to are super excited to be around people again, to be able to connect. I would say, a big shift in energy, definitely in a positive direction.
If there’s anything that I would like to see more in community, it would be more people trusting themselves and trusting each other and taking those little or big steps.
Q: What are you seeing that you’d like to see more of?
I would like to see more people taking little risks. I think people stepping out of their comfort zone and showing up is awesome. I think we were missing so much during the pandemic. It’s gonna be hard for people to come out and trust again. I would like to see people taking those risks, seeing something that they want to join or be a part of, and going and doing it. Or noticing something that’s missing in their community and being like, “wow, we could really use this” or “this would be really beneficial” and making those steps. If there’s anything that I would like to see more in community, it would be more people trusting themselves and trusting each other and taking those little or big steps.
Q: What are some of the next steps we could take to move in that direction?
It can be like really easy little steps. It can be something as simple as people coming out and showing up. The people that even just come to the little chats that we have, or these coffee get-togethers. It takes a lot to come out after being in a pandemic for a long time. Every time that somebody comes to one of our events or our groups that’s new, it’s always super admirable because I know it’s a hard step. People are really in their comfort zones right now. The only thing that we can ask for people to do is trust the community and trust the people around you and take those chances, and come out, show up. A big part of it is learning to trust and learning to listen to other people; to understand that everyone’s been having a hard time and we all want to get back to this community engagement piece. It can be as easy as listening to other people and listening to yourself, as well as coming out and trying to show up for yourself and the people around you.
Q: What do you think it would take for those steps to be as wonderfully successful as possible?
It’s got to be a lot of trust. I’m not saying trust in people you don’t know or trust people that you do know, but trust in yourself and what you want. Having faith in the ideas that you have, faith in knowing what you want, what you need, or what you have been missing. There’s a big support component too. Especially if we’re trying to create this community and the sense of belonging. There’s a big component of support there, and being there for other people, understanding other people, and listening to what other people have been going through.
The best thing that could come out of this is rebuilding and revitalizing that sense of belonging.
Q: If that were to happen, what do you feel would be possible?
Mending this missing piece. The best thing that could come out of this is rebuilding and revitalizing that sense of belonging. Not just on a larger scale, but also on a personal scale, because people were missing that community engagement piece. People were becoming isolated and lonely. We’ve heard that people were suffering. The best thing that could come out of that, is that people are able to rebuild their own sense of belonging in the community or help others rebuild theirs.
Q: What, if anything, have you not said that you’d like to say?
I would just like to say how appreciative I am of the people that do come out and do show up. I know that takes a lot of trust. It takes like a big leap of faith. It’s so beneficial for people to have that component and that connection in the community. Some people don’t know yet what’s in store for them when they make that connection. I really encourage people to come out, take that chance. If you see something that you’ve been thinking about doing, do it, go and do it.
Listen to an audio version of this interview here:
Lead photo cutline: Jenna Nieman at a community pop-up near downtown Brantford wearing Jane’s Walks glasses in anticipation of the upcoming Jane’s Walk.
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