Saturday, November 7, 2009
Spiritfest II -- the experiment continues
Spiritfest II was our second attempt at activating the manifesto that Art feeds mind, body and soul -- and that being our creative selves allows us to build community and overcome social obstacles that would overwhelm us in isolation.
Starting from the idea that nobody can be creative when their basic subsistence needs are not met, we once again joined forces with the great people at the York Region Food Network. The message is: creativity is the ultimate renewable resource, and together we can make sure nobody gets left behind or left without adequate food, shelter and right to human dignity. So yes, we had a giant party to celebrate art, music, performance, healing practices and whatever creative acts our participants wanted to bring -- but we tried hard to focus on raising awareness and funds to help people who experience hunger and food security issues in our community.
In York Region, Canada, which is our home base, the median income hovers around $90K per year; at the same time, we have been hard hit by layoffs and whole sectors of industry closing shop. Food banks are seeing a 30% increase in user rates -- and donations have dropped as people who once gave to charity are finding they need it themselves. It is a well-known fact that the average Canadian lives only two paycheques away from homelessness -- yet people feel shame and isolation and are stigmatized when they reach out for help. With York Region rents being very high and rental housing very scarce, many people find themselves paying over 50% of their income on rent -- making food sort of a luxury item. We wanted to use our event to highlight those facts, and be a platform to build a community for a day, focussed on sharing our gifts.
We were very happy that the York Region Food Network's Executive Director, Joan Stonehocker, spoke to us about the campaign to "Do The Math" -- looking at the numbers that low-income people and social assistance recipients have to juggle in order to survive. For more information about this campaign, please visit http://dothemath.thestop.org/
The York Region Food Network shows great creativity in their advocacy work: looking at the systemic causes of food insecurity on one level, and finding grassroots-level options to bring healthy fresh food to people who are relying on food banks. They help operate food banks; they offer school backpacks full of school supplies to families whose last dollar is not enough for their food bills; they offer community gardens to people who want to grow their own food in urban areas, and who send their extra produce to the food bank. They provide opportunity spaces for people to use human ingenuity to solve problems locally. That is why we love to support their work and spread the word about their organization.
More about Spiritfest coming soon!