Challenges in Social Activism


When asked to summarize the challenges she has faced in her social activism, Kathy listed three major ones. The first challenge has already been mentioned: the inescapable fact that a change agent cannot and never should swoop into a community and expect to change things for that community: "you cannot just go in and cure things". The second challenge is her ongoing frustration with the inescapable fact that well planned community advancement programs do not always reach those for whom they were primarily intended. Somehow the combination of attitude, lack of education, and messaging that does not reach its intended audience beats the best intentions of the best educators and change agents. The W.I. school nutrition programs were a case in point:

No matter what you decide and do, it hardly ever reaches the people who need it the most. Because they don't have the ability, don't have the financial means, or the desire to participate in the things that you start. Now we're going to have here a breakfast program in our school and we're (W.I.) very active in it. I'm still very active in that. I have some problems with it at times, but at least some of the children who need it the most are getting it. But how to get the message out and the help to the people who needed it the most was very difficult. Not impossible, because occasionally you do break through that barrier. But we still have that barrier: we've got a huge number of kids who just drop out of school.

Kathy's third major challenge is her perception that her local area of the province lacks effective leaders and enough volunteers to get important tasks done. Even the Girl Guides cannot exist anymore because of this problem. How did the problem arise? One answer is the disappearing generation; young, well educated (high school and above) and active people have left New World Island for better work and career opportunities: "most of them are in Alberta. We have educated our young out of here and have very few leaders in the community to meet our needs." Her second answer is the already fully committed younger generation: busy keeping body and soul and family together, while their elders grow older and want to do new or different things in their lives. And the too-busy younger generation is not learning the skills of being a board or committee member. "I think that maybe many volunteer associations will go."