Like most places around the globe, COVID-19 has changed life in Calgary since early March. People are working from home if possible. Shops and services are closed, except for essential services. Self-isolating and physical distancing have become the norm.
While the streets may be quiet, the staff at the City of Calgary have been incredibly busy. A significant portion of The City’s pandemic response work is focused on supporting people by connecting them to social supports and community resources.
Lorelei Higgins, a Rotary Positive Peace Activator, is the lead for Community Connections. Her team is responsible for ensuring that the offers, requests and resources related to the pandemic are connected in a meaningful way. Information on this can be found here.
The incredibly generous spirit of Calgarians has surfaced as one of the most inspiring aspects of living in this great city during this time of unknowns and significant change. It has been overwhelming to see the abundant offers of support. Daily, I am reminded that we are a city of assets. There are many needs at this time, but it is uplifting to remember that through connecting in community, we are truly in this together.
Lorelei Higgins, the lead for Community Connections, City of Calgary Article, April, 2020
For Lorelei, her training as a Rotary Positive Peace Activator has been an essential component of how she approaches her work, especially right now. Lorelei sees alignment naturally with the Pillars of Positive Peace and the overall local pandemic response.
She has been noticing which Pillars are being employed more than others, especially as the stages of the pandemic response continues to change in response to the evolving current state.
Lorelei is currently undertaking a community assessment as part of understanding where the gaps are in the current response efforts and what is required for longer-term recovery plans and resiliency building efforts.
She is utilizing a Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results (SOAR) analysis and asset mapping, with the Pillars as the foundation for the assessment. This assessment is useful in all aspects of her pandemic work but especially as part of her role on the steering committee for the Social Recovery Strategy.
The current pandemic is a profound shock that is testing the resilience of Calgary’s social and economic systems. While the immediate focus of public authorities and civil society is on crisis response, the impacts of the current crisis will persist into the medium and long term. Recovery planning is essential now.
The long-term effect of the current pandemic will include economic, social and systemic impacts that will affect the well-being of individuals and families, particularly those already in the most marginalized and vulnerable situations. It is therefore of great interest to Lorelei to understand where the gaps are and to ensure that the social support systems and community resources are best positioned to respond.
The steering committee will also be undertaking the development of theories of change as part of the analysis, which is a natural tie in with the Pillars and the questions around how connections and communication can be increased and what activities will support greater outcomes towards positive peace.
Nose Hill Park, overlooking Calgary city. The elaborate stone circle was created with the guidance of the late ceremonial Elder Andy Black Water and is a significant and sacred site to all Indigenous peoples in and around Calgary.
While the pandemic is daunting due to its indefinite timeline for recovery and the future remains foreseeable unknown, Lorelei is energized by the ability to apply the Pillars of Positive Peace in a very real, locally focused way. Positive Peace has never mattered more.
How humanity approaches this pandemic will inform the society we live in post-pandemic. Now is the time to lead, with courage, and to try out different analyses and approaches, seeing where the Pillars interact. What does the community need more of? What can people shift around to create more balance so the presence of one Pillar can be more pronounced than previously?
As a Métis person, Lorelei is inspired by the systems thinking that the Pillars require. It fits naturally with her own Indigenous worldviews of interconnectedness. There is a deep realization occurring globally of what “we are in this together” truly means. For Lorelei, the interconnected web we live in has never been more profoundly apparent.
“We are Métis, with roots and rights that extend 9,000 years into this continent. We are neither First Nations nor Inuit, nor are we European immigrants to this land. Instead, we are the middle-ground between camps; the compromise between differences and the dawn that separates night and day. We are not half-breeds, but the children born of a marriage between two very different worlds…. To be Métis is to be blessed with the best fruit of not one, but two family trees. We are not “half” of anything, but doubled. Being twice blessed, we are likewise proud, strong and determined.”
– Terry St. Amant, The Georgian Bay Métis Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario Web site