In June of 1990 I embarked on the world of work with my diploma in hand and four rambunctious kids at home. Little did I realize where both of those worlds would lead! 24 years later as I embark on a new journey, I reflect back on the many twists and turns along the way and I am grateful for having been a part of the story. It began something like this:
Once upon a time, in the mid 1980’s, in the tiny village of Ohsweken; a group of talented, creative minds from New Credit and Six Nations came together to create an opportunity for our people to secure their very own employment, training and business development services. At that time people had to journey to Brantford and other parts to seek this type of help. It wasn’t easy.
There were all kinds of barriers to employment and business development for people that ran the gamut and it seemed that our communities many skills, abilities and talents were being lost in the great bureaucratic maze that was and still is.
This little group of intrepid volunteers spent hours of their own and council time working through the system to design a program that would meet the needs of a growing community and open the doors of opportunity that once were closed. Their meetings often went late into the night while they strategized and planned. They went out and shook hands and lobbied; they championed the cause. They hosted meetings and ate lots of corn soup and scone and donuts. Their cheeks got sore from talking, lobbying and from sitting in meetings. But eventually people listened to their ideas and plans and Touch the Sky Business Development Centre and Six Nations/New Credit Community Futures were born in 1988 and 1989.
As soon as it was born it began to evolve and create. Working with our counterparts at Council, we soon had a plaza where businesses could be housed and a new Tourism Centre. We had a lending program that understood the unique challenges of starting and managing reserve based business. We brought entrepreneurship training to New Credit and Six Nations. We started a micro lending program with the support of Six Nations and New Credit Councils, and assisted in developing and implementing bank teller training for two future banks that now reside here.
We assisted in strategic planning in the fledgling tourism industry. Secured almost a half million dollars for the restoration of Chiefswood National Historic Site and worked with Six Nations Tourism to support new businesses and promote the sites and attractions of our communities. We built a building to house our services which we quickly outgrew and it now houses the Grand River Ontario Works Program. We provided loans to many businesses that still operate today.
In 1996 the Six Nations/New Credit Community Futures and Touch the Sky Business Development Centre, merged to focus on business development and financing as well as supporting strategic planning and assisting small projects and business development. Those two united forces to become Two Rivers Community Development Centre and went on to accomplish great things.
I am honoured to have been a part of this journey in the life cycle of an organization that has accomplished many wonderful things and to have worked with many fine people and organizations over the past 24 years. I would like to take this time to publicly thank everyone I have worked with, argued with, challenged, prodded, pleaded with, conspired with, cried with, created and celebrated with throughout this journey. From the staff, past and present and those founding board members who gave me the chance to grow and continue to inspire me, to those who have passed on and left their lessons in my mind and heart, and our current board who face even more complex challenges than their predecessors. Thank you for your inspiration, encouragement, constructive criticism, challenges, lessons and support over the years.
If I were asked what the most valuable thing is that I have learned on this journey it would be this: Change often does not come from individual effort, on its own, or without a struggle.
Our community volunteers are our collective consciousness at work. They have and continue to accomplish great things and should be respected and applauded for their hard work. If you want to inspire change in your community, volunteer or work with a non-profit organization. You will receive more than you ever thought possible.
In Peace and Friendship,
L. Kim Hill