Maple Ridge Community Action Team

Vocal, active peers make the difference

Formed in:  2018
Number of members:  75
Communities served:  

Name of Town: Maple Ridge,  

Unique features:

Celebrate and empower voices through multimedia approaches and collaboration

A Q&A with Leslie Billinton, Kim Dumore, Shayna Guichon of the Maple Ridge CAT.

“It’s such an amazing experience, seeing how much people care. Watching people help others who are struggling. It’s neat to see how different agencies work together to build a stronger community,” – Shayna Guichon, Peer Worker

Members of the Community Action Initiative sat down with Leslie Billinton, CAT Co-Chair, Kim Dumore, CAT Project Coordinator; and Shayna Guichon, Peer Worker to discuss the learnings, evolution and artwork coming out of the Maple Ridge CAT.

CAI: Can you start off by telling us how your CAT is structured?
Leslie Billinton (LB): A multi-sector group of municipal and community partners. It is comprised of individuals from Alouette Addictions, Fraser Health, RainCity Housing, the Salvation Army, School District #42, and others. We have a leadership team and two Co-Chairs.
    The group’s primary goal is to work together to develop a community-based response to the opioid overdose crisis, identify challenges, and address gaps as they arise, and increase community-wide compassion, engagement, and inclusion. At our community planning table, we are proactive and action oriented. We actively engage peers and those with lived experience. We believe all people are equal and that each of us brings value to the conversation. We understand that stories, best practices, and research are the best tools to communicate our shared message when working on complex community issues, and we recognize that stigma and shaming create barriers to accessing services. We’re passionate about building a stronger, more resilient community for all. These values and beliefs guide our work, our interactions, and help us frame our approach.
CAI: How are people with lived or living experience with substance use (PWLLE) involved in the CAT?
LB: We had people with lived or living experience involved even before we became a CAT – when we were initially meeting as the Overdose Awareness Table. We’ve really worked to make sure peers are included in all of the projects we’re doing, and that they’re leading the project work. We’re always looking for input on everything from the resources we’ve created and how might they best be used to how they can be adapted for better use into the community. We’ve been very fortunate to have peers in our community who are active and vocal.
Shayna Guichon (SG):
    As a peer, I work our pop-up events, where we hand out lunches and harm reduction supplies at the social assistance office, as well as during walkabouts in the community. We give people information and direct them to who they need to see for certain services. We also host community dinners.
    Peers in our community identified that people were having a hard time finding harm reduction supplies and having difficulty with food security due to COVID. That led to us looking at how we could get food and harm reduction resources into the community. Regular meal programming to support those in need shut down due to COVID, and through our CAT, we provide meals – community dinners – five days a week.
CAI: How does your CAT work with or engage with Indigenous communities?
Kim Dunmore (KD): We work very closely with Fraser River Indigenous Society (FRIS) on our projects. We all sit around our CAT table together and they have connected us with many peers to work on our community projects. It’s evolving, but we feel very strongly about our partnership with FRIS. We want to make sure we’re not partaking in tokenism in any way. It’s important that our work is meaningful. We are working on a zine, currently framed under the title Come Create with Us, and we have plans for FRIS to collaborate with us on some issues. The zine is open to anyone who would like to participate.
    The zine will be an opportunity for community members to share stories about their strength and resilience, their art, or their experiences with stigma and its impact. What has their journey been? We’re hoping to build on this, and we’ve reached out to FRIS, and community agencies that work with youth. In the end, we’re hoping to have something that will show the support, resilience, strength, and resources that are in our community – to decrease stigma and increase compassion and awareness.
CAI: What is something that you are proud to have worked on in the CAT?
KD: We ran a photovoice project called The Humans of Maple Ridge, which was an amazing experience. We worked with so many different community members from peers, to outreach workers at the schools. We asked people how stigma affected them, and we displayed the photos at the ACT Arts Centre. Opening day, included live musicians, some of whom were peers. We brought in a food truck, so community members and peers were able to eat together and view this exhibit. The exhibit was up for nine months, and it gave opportunities for dialogue.
    Regional CAT meetings have always been interesting to me. Hearing the different work that each of the CATs has done is eye-opening. It’s cool to hear how many people are trying to make a difference in their communities, especially for those people who are misunderstood and stigmatized. That’s why I am so excited for the zine, which ties together everything that we’ve learned, and presents it back into the community.


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