Blog Post #7: - Meet Lisa Morris, a volunteer mentor with Working 4 Change: Learn & Go, a project of the Social Innovation Fund
A voice for change
Program inspires, empowers mentor
Lisa Morris is giving back to the program that sparked her love of volunteering more than a decade ago.
A mentor with Working 4 Change: Learn and Go, she was a participant in the program’s early days, when it was known simply as Learn and Go. Lisa was living in Crescent Valley when she first heard of it. A single mom on social assistance at the time, she was looking for ways to get involved.
“My children lived there, it was home,” she says.
Working 4 Change: Learn and Go, which is offered by the Saint John Women’s Empowerment Network, helps people make change in their communities through local projects. Lisa and her team wanted to fix the local field.
“It gives you the power to know you can make change,” she says.
Today, the program is bigger than ever, adding extra sessions and a coaching component thanks to support from the Social Innovation Fund, a five-year, $10-million provincial investment in new ways of combating generational poverty in Saint John. The fund is managed by Living SJ.
“It gives you the power to know you can make change." - Lisa Morris
Lisa Morris is a mentor with Working 4 Change: Learn & Go.
A passion for giving back
Lisa had caught the community development bug. She was one of the first neighborhood assistants through Vibrant Communities. Soon after, she became the Crescent Valley Community Developer at the Crescent Valley Resource Centre. With a mandate to engage residents, she helped start the newsletter, as well as the recycling, healthy breakfast and Summer Squad programs and Moving Forward meetings, a forum for local concerns and ideas.
“It gave residents the sense that we can do something about things,” she says. “That’s where the passion comes from.”
Reconnecting with her sense of purpose
After years of living in poverty, at times relying on food banks to feed her family, Lisa has a full-time job as a customer service representative with Irving Oil. The company is a long-time partner with Working 4 Change: Learn & Go, giving staff time to volunteer as mentors, sharing their skills with community project groups.
Lisa is now one of those mentors. She is working with a group in the South End to create an emergency food pantry. She says being a mentor in the program helps her reconnect with her early sense of purpose.
“Volunteering with these amazing people and neighborhood groups really makes me feel like I have a voice once again,” she says. “I feel like being more involved will help bridge the gap between poverty and the working poor, and maybe help organizations and government better understand the barriers we face.”
She cites the Margaret Mead quotation she painted on the walls of the Crescent Valley Resource Centre many years ago: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”