I’ve been reflecting on working in Victoria and the region, the organizations and people who I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to collaborate and work with, along with all the friends and family who have supported me along the way. I’m deeply humbled and filled with a great sense of gratitude…
I want to start by acknowledging and recognizing the unceded homelands of the Lekwungen speaking people of the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations, where I’ve resided as a settler for these past nine years working and living.
As many of you may know my time at Victoria Foundation is coming to a close. My partner Jen and I are embarking on a new adventure heading back east to Hamilton, Ontario, as I’ve accepted a role with the Hamilton Community Foundation. And trust me, it’s not lost on me that moving in the midst of a global pandemic in the dead of winter, to Ontario no less, might be a bit challenging!
But as we transition into this next stage of our journey, leaving my hometown, I’ve been reflecting on working in Victoria and the region, the organizations and people who I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to collaborate and work with, along with all the friends and family who have supported me along the way. I’m deeply humbled and filled with a great sense of gratitude. I’m especially thankful and grateful to the Victoria Foundation, in particular Sandy Richardson and Carol Hall, for their mentorship and teachings during my time here and taking a chance on a young bright-eyed idealistic 30-something five years ago.
My time at the Foundation has been filled with the joy of relationship-building in the community, the privilege of working on amazing programs and initiatives, and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic community response. And while 2020 has been a dumpster fire of year, filled with uncertainty, hurt, hardship, and struggle, it has also seen communities coming together to support one another, including here on Vancouver Island. One of the many examples of this, is the Rapid Relief Fund that raised $6 million from thousands of donations big and small, and invested every last penny into community for food access, child care, income and rent supports, mental health support, housing, support for women and children fleeing domestic violence, and many other areas to help our region weather the effects of the pandemic.
Neighbours helping neighbours.
Our region’s response to the pandemic demonstrated the power of community and our resilience. It showed us what is possible when we come together to address the challenges of our time. And having vaccines on the horizon provides all of us with much needed good news.
All this is not to say that the response was perfect or that the needs of our community are not ongoing. Far from it! The pandemic is continuing to ravage communities and response is needed now more than ever. The adverse economic impacts are likely to be with us for a long time after COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror, let alone the social and health impacts.
Moreover, our region, like most places across the country, was facing significant challenges well before COVID-19 hit. And in reality, COVID-19 worsened the acute challenges communities faced, including the opioid crisis, homelessness, food insecurity, climate change, mental health, domestic violence, unemployment and precarious employment, high cost of living, the housing crisis, and wealth disparity. We continue to see the abhorrent effects of systemic racism in this country with communities of colour disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The effects of systemic racism was further confirmed this week with the release of the Province of BC’s In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous specific Racism and Discrimination in BC Health Care report.
Our region is not immune to these challenges. To echo Victoria Foundation’s board chair, Zaman Velji in his June 2020 blog post, the status quo is not working, and we have an opportunity coming out of this pandemic to take our learnings and be courageous through listening, learning and acting in the pursuit of racial, social, and environmental justice. We collectively have a lot of work to do, but I’ve learned over my time here, this region continues to show it can come together to support one another for positive change and to rise to the challenges of our time.
So with that, I say see you all soon. It has been an absolute privilege and pleasure working in Victoria and across the region and with all of you. It’s not lost on me how fortunate I have been to have lived and worked in my hometown, close to my friends and family, having a support network in place. I have enjoyed and benefited from this beautiful and wondrous place as a settler, and I’m eternally grateful to the Lekwungen, the WSÁNEC and Nuu-chah-nulth.
Rudi Wallace has worked at the Victoria Foundation since 2015, most recently in the role of Grants Manager.