Clinton School student Ravyn Towns (Memphis, Tenn.) is currently in Vancouver, British Columbia, for her International Public Service Project with Mothers Matter Centre, where she is collecting the stories of mothers detailing their experiences of familial and personal change they’ve experienced as a result of their participation in the program. She will systematize the findings from previous years and identify and publish findings on the emergent themes. Below is a reflection, written by Towns, of the first month of her IPSP.
This is the first time I’ve actually lived in a big city; Vancouver, British Columbia in Western Canada is now my home. There are certain adjustments that come with this lifestyle, and living abroad in general, including frequent use of public transportation even if you own a vehicle, staying focused and alert at all times, being resourceful, and constant prioritization.
My 4-10 minute drives to school, work, dinner, the gym, or church have been replaced with expensive commutes taking a taxi, riding the bus or SkyTrain, walking, and sometimes a combination of all four. Usually it takes 90 minutes or more to get to and from where I’m going. I enjoy walking; it helps me enjoy moments of solitude, I love the fresh air and eco-friendly environment (it’s so CLEAN here), and I’m exercising daily.
I work downtown near the Pacific Ocean so I’m able to enjoy good food, views, and vibes on a daily basis. Speaking of food, the summer climate is perfect for gardening. I frequent two of my supervisors’ homes and they both have thriving gardens in their backyards that I’ve had the pleasure of consuming for lunch and dinner. I feel so renewed and refreshed and with the hospitality remaining constant, I am living my very BEST life.
The population here is extremely diverse; I hear an array of languages and accents every minute of the day. In my office alone, I have been introduced to seven different cultures, British Columbia (the province) is huge, and their culture is more active and healthier. As much as I love the South, born and raised in Memphis, Tenn., our culture is more sedentary, slower paced, and we generally lean towards unhealthier eating options for various reasons. Although I don’t see myself turning my back on fried chicken, cornbread, or yams anytime soon, I am enjoying the abundance of organic and vegan options. A healthy lifestyle is legit the “norm” here.
Because I value education as a solid tool for communication and enjoy working with low-income populations and children, I decided to complete my International Public Service Project with the Mothers Matter Centre. This Vancouver-based nonprofit is a national consortium of organizations dedicated to serving socially isolated and low economic status mothers and their families using their proven mother-to-mother approach. The HIPPY program, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, remains the core of the center and it’s delivered to mothers and children in-home supporting parents as their child’s first and most important teachers.
As a multimedia journalist and communications consultant, I am journeying across Canada to more than 10 cities across five provinces interviewing HIPPY mothers and children collecting videography and photography to create their 20th anniversary celebration video that will be published in 2020. I am also working closely with the center’s communications department assisting with website development, social media, media relations, and publications. As an experienced journalist with a B.S. in Communication, I am thrilled to return to what I love MOST: collecting and analyzing qualitative data, connecting with diverse populations and experiencing different cultures, allowing others to share their stories, showcasing positive outcomes and sustainability, and being in the lab. What I loved most about news reporting was video production.
I traveled to Nanaimo, British Columbia this weekend to meet my first mom and child and my views from the seaplane there and the ferry back home were literally breathtaking. Along with the city’s beauty, what had me in awe the most was the amazing mother and daughter duo I had the pleasure of interviewing and their story of courage and determination. An immigrant from Central Asia’s Kazakhstan whose first language is Russian, Marina Filatova was able to find home with HIPPY in Canada. Now a married mother of 5, with Amina being child number 4, Filatova stated it wasn’t an easy settlement in the beginning but with the help of HIPPY, life started to improve in several ways.
What she enjoyed most about the program was learning with her daughter and the amount of quality time she was able to spend with Amina. “When you sit with your child and do different things and look at your child and see how happy she is, it brings you both so much joy,” said Filatova ecstatically. “Then, you see the output and how quickly she’s picking up things.”
Both Marina and Amina experienced an extreme impact from participating in the program. For Filatova, her circle of friends expanded and all of her friends are former HIPPY Moms. As her English strengthened her confidence grew and she was able to be a better leader for her children. She proudly shared that because of HIPPY she noticed that Amina was reading sooner than her classmates and writing well. Amina’s teacher noticed, too, and gifted her with a diary, which she uses on a regular basis. I was able to share moments with Amina as she wrote several entries showcasing her English and math skills. “Because of HIPPY, now I write a lot more,” said Amina with a smile.
With my project off to a phenomenal start, I am looking forward to more exploration and interviews; I truly enjoy hearing and sharing other’s stories. I will continue enjoying Canada and learning a thing or two for everyone I meet. No two days have been the same and that helps me to anticipate the next moment while appreciating the beauty in the unknown.
Until next time,