Now in the hands of four women
Kemba Mitchell is now in her second term as chairperson of the West Island Black Community Association (WIBCA) and is one of four women who are helping to position the organization for the future.
To do so, she says they have to deal with many of the same challenges that confronted other community leaders in the past; however, the community has changed significantly and the way forward is a lot more complex.
“For one thing, it’s a lot more difficult to get the youth interested in community work and keep them involved,” she told The CONTACT at a recent sit-down at our offices. “So you might have to modify the number of meetings you have and even the way they are conducted… instead of gathering at a spot, it might have to be done via Skype. Because for the most part, young people are very busy and find it difficult to (allocate) the time to do community work, even if they really want to.”
A point reinforced by Joan Lee, who is currently serving as WIBCA’s treasurer: “For me it’s a personal commitment that I make, because it takes a lot away from my family life and whatever social life I still have,” says the working mother of two daughters, both of who are still at home.
Lee, a project specialist at a well-established logistics company, says she has always been a believer in WIBCA’s mission to assist and empower individuals and families in surrounding communities , but more than that she’s a strong supporter of Mitchell’s vision for the future.
Mitchell, whose professional situation and personal life almost mirror Lee’s, is a project manager at TRU Simulation + Training Canada Inc. and has two grown daughters at home.
She admits that her commitment to the association is a big personal sacrifice and takes a good chunk of her time, but says that she’s in it for the long haul. And describes WIBCA’s four female executive members as “fighters” who are in community work because “it’s worth it, as we are doing it to help families.”
The other two executive members of the association are Maria Durant, who serves as vice-chairperson, and is a certified professional bookkeeper, and Rose Powell, the secretary, is a caregiver.
Looking forward, Mitchell says the goal is to adapt WIBCA’s programs and its space to accommodate the needs of all who are in need in its surrounding communities.
But as it was in the beginning, the focus is on the youth.
“We have a very large space that we’d like to transform into a fully functional one, especially for youth,” she says. “I’m hoping we can soon establish a drop-in centre to provide them with a safe place where they can do homework, listen to music, play video games or whatever.”
But she says the association is hobbled because it does not have an executive director on staff to handle its day-to-days activities, especially the important task of securing funds for its activities and plans for the future.
Mitchell says another immediate goal of the association is to broaden the scope of its operations to include people from other cultural groups, who are being invited to get involved.
“Remembering that one of the founders of WIBCA was a white woman (Mrs. Margaret Jolly), we’ve always benefitted from their participation in the association, that’s why we’re making a special effort to reach out to them to either use our services or volunteer.”
In the meantime, WIBCA continues to also reach out to the young ones as it did at its 36th Anniversary Banquet and Ball held on October 29, where five well-deserving students were presented with scholarship assistance.
The students, Nyeesha Mitchell Blair, Celiciah Durant, Joshua Hoyte, Amara Ngadi and Chantay Rose were drawn from different educational streams, two at college, two at university, and one in vocational studies.
According to Mitchell, the banquet also provided the association with an opportunity to showcase its programs and activities to a network of like-minded organizations and influential people in government and the private sector, which she hopes to reap dividends as they prepare to embark on a grand fundraising campaign.
“To that end, the banquet was a grand success,” she added.
Mitchell is confident that WIBCA, which was founded on a mission “to empower children, youth, adults and seniors in our community through its programs, services and activities,” will continue to be a force for good in the West Island.
However, much of it hinges on its ability to attract young people.
“At every opportunity I remind the youth that they benefitted from community in one way or the other, and it’s important for them to give back.”
WIBCA can be reached at 514-683-3925 or firstname.lastname@example.org