Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Catalyst Centre Needs Your Help

Yup, we're hurting.

It all started with an idea: could we create a popular education organization that practiced the very ethics, pedagogy and politics that we presumed we could teach (facilitate, develop, support, etc.) to others? Matt and i shared a history of conversations about social change, Gramsci, popular education, ethics and so on and, while working to support a North American coalition of popular and adult education groups, we concocted an idea we called the "Catalyst Project." the project didn't go anywhere but we had this idea in the back of our heads that was ready-made for an opportunity to start a new popular education group round about 1998. We approached two friends, Clare and Darashani and thus became the co-founders of the Catalyst Centre. We had a handful of vigorous years though funding, from the get-go, was tough. Over and over again we encountered enthusiasm for the democratic process we represented but reluctance to fund processes that did not have clearly defined, measureable outcomes. Along the way, our modest resource collection grew from a few hundred books and manuals to thousands, as we acquired the collection of the International Council for Adult Education. Which brings us to our present crisis. We need to save our collection. So we're doing a BIG push on fundraising and hope to raise enough to buy us some time and capacity to continue to care for a unique resource. Below is our appeal (which you can also download as a PDF here) and we urge any and all who value popular education work to consider donating and/or passing on this appeal to others who might wish to contribute. Thanks in advance.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Catalyst Centre needs your help. Urgently!

This is an emergency appeal for support to keep the Catalyst library intact. Our collection of thousands of books and journals (mostly in storage these past couple of years while we've looked for a new home) is in jeopardy. We have to move it (or renew our storage arrangement) by May 8. We need to raise at least $2,000 by May 6th to move the collection and that may still mean giving away a lot of stuff.

Can you support us with a tax-deductible donation to support the library? Your donation can help us keep this collection alive. You can donate right now through our account with Canada Helps, a charitable on-line donation portal (please note that our incorporated name is "Popular Education and Research Catalyst Centre, Inc."). You can help out now by visiting:

Cheques can be made to the "Catalyst Centre Foundation" and mailed to:

Catalyst Centre

720 Bathurst Street

Toronto ON M5S 2R4

Our long-term goal is to raise over $20,000 to preserve what is one of the best adult and popular education collections in the country.

This need for urgent funds came upon us due to a change in management where the library is being stored. Catalyst, as organization in hibernation, has zero funds to support the library and storage costs have come out of one individual donor and significant financial contributions from Catalyst staff, a model that cannot be maintained past May 8. We are working to find a permanent home for the library in the next few weeks, but we need funds in order to make this happen.

The Catalyst Centre is almost ten years old. Hard to believe. When Matt and chris first began discussing the idea of founding a popular education group to continue the tradition of the Doris Marshall Institute for Education and Action and the Naming the Moment Project, we certainly didn't know where we'd be ten years later. The Catalyst Centre is respected both locally and internationally and, if people overestimate our capacity (which has always been modest), this is, nonetheless, a measure of the importance of the work that we do (along with numerous allies). And, while we are now in a phase of making new plans, circumstances have caught up with us.

We are currently expanding and renewing the membership of Catalyst. And we're looking into developing new programming that will include courses and workshops, support for the Indigenous Environmental Network's Alberta tarsands campaign, continued management and development of the collection and more.

Our immediate need is the collection. It is likely the single best collection of popular education materials in Canada. It contains extensive adult and popular education information, as well as archives from the Doris Marshall Institute and the Moment Project. It is a collection that is still an excellent support to community educators, community development practitioners, students, social workers and more.

Your donation can make the difference between preserving this collection and having to give it away in pieces, if not actually having to discard much of it.

Whatever you can contribute will be put to good use. Every little bit helps. You will get a charitable receipt for any donation and we ask you to consider giving anything between $25 and $1000. All donations are tax deductible. If you can help, please do so now.

Thank-you for considering this appeal and please feel free to share it with anyone you think might appreciate being a part of saving this collection and supporting the work of the Catalyst Centre.


chris cavanagh, Matthew Adams, Corvin Russell

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Simple Gifts

Jennifer was working as a waitress when, one night, a group of nuns came in. Jennifer served them and was also curious about these women who had devoted their lives to god. Their exchange was lively and the nuns’ joviality infected Jennifer who joked and teased along with the Sisters. The Sisters were themselves curious about Jennifer. The nuns were on their way to see a play called Nunsense.

The Sisters returned to the restaurant after the play and sat in a section that Jennifer was not working. Nonetheless, the Sister’s called Jennifer over and told her of the play, blushing as they reported on some of the more scandalous scenes. Their good cheer was undiminished and, as they were about to leave, they approached Jennifer, told her how much they enjoyed meeting her, and gave her a five dollar bill. Jennifer protested that they hadn’t even been in her section but the Sisters were insistent, saying that they wanted to support Jennifer in whatever she chose to do.

Jennifer was moved by this humble gift and vowed to use the five dollars for something worthy: perhaps donate it to a shelter or some other charity. However, that night Jennifer went out drinking with friends and ran out of money. She debated using the $5 she had just received and went ahead and spent it. The next morning she awoke mortified at what she’d done. It was the beginning of a soul-searching during which she stopped drinking. She reflected on her life and eventually chose to get involved in literacy work as a volunteer tutor.

Some months after meeting the Sisters Jennifer was serving a young couple in the restaurant when something moved her to tell them the story of the nuns and the five dollar bill. She enjoyed serving the young couple and was surprised when, after the couple left, the man approached her and said his wife wanted to talk to her. Jennifer thought that the service had been appreciated but now prepared herself for some unexpected complaint.

The woman handed Jennifer a five dollar bill saying that she had been so moved by the story that they wanted to give her back the $5 the Sisters had given her.

Light in my life

The one on the right is J'net in a dress of her own making and which is part of an exhibit that starts in a couple of weeks at Six Nations Reserve south of Toronto.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Oy, but life gets busy sometimes

Well, i've just come through a rather crazy-busy stretch that included moving house, living outta boxes, watching my partner's belly expand with new life, volunteering with the Toronto Community Development Institute which just ended (rather successfully, if i don't say so myself), a number of contracts including an "ending poverty" popular education curriculum (that you'll be able to download from this website later this week) and numerous other activities. So, once again, blogging has been difficult to keep up with. So here's a wee tale i penned some time ago about something that happened almost 25 years ago. I still can't tell this story without crying - it still feels like it happened yesterday:

The Potato

While in the mountains of Nicaragua, surrounded by war, I chose to make a rather treacherous journey to the nearest city. We were bringing the harvested and washed coffee beans to the central location for further processing. And we were also picking up food for the community of refugees that we were working with. We were camped on top of a mountain with many of the campesinos from the surrounding valleys. The mountain top was defensible and safe. We made the 50 kilometer journey to Condega, traded our coffee beans for sacks of potatoes and journeyed back. We came upon one patrol of contras who took aim at us and fired as we sped away. This raised the value of the potatoes for me in a unique way. So later that night when a young girl of a family I’d befriended came to my tent with a hot potato, my first thought was that she was trying to unload the undesirable nightshade on the unsuspecting gringo. I saw those potatoes as an all-too-precious source of nutrition and one that I had risked my life for. There was no way I was going to let this five-year-old neglect her health. I accepted the potato graciously but took her and the potato back to the family. I tried to explain politely that their daughter was trying to avoid eating her potato but I was told quickly that I had misunderstood. They had sent the potato to me as thanks for having made the risky journey that day. Touched and a little broken-hearted (though in a good way) I thanked them for the precious gift and returned to my tent to enjoy, very deeply, the best potato I ever ate.