Our next story from our Summer Series comes from Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, and is shared by Norm Leech. Neighbourhood houses across the Lower Mainland have the honour of deep and ongoing relationships with Norm Leech (T’it’q’et, St’at’imc Nation), Executive Director of the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre. Norm is a leader and facilitator who inspires thought-provoking conversations through stories and dialogue on topics such as existing systemic inequities, intergenerational trauma and healing, cultural commonalities and connection. Norm has been instrumental in leading and influencing decolonizing work at ANHBC neighbourhood houses, his partnership and friendship are imperative in building trust and real connection. We are honoured to share a Q&A with Norm around his Neighbourhood House Impact Story:

What first brought you to neighbourhood houses?

Indigenous programs and staff invited us in for collaboration and participation. Generally friends or friends-of-friends are the connection and relationships that bring us in.

Which neighbourhood houses have you been connected to over the years?

Most deeply with Frog Hollow the last couple of years. But peripherally with Cedar Cottage, Mount Pleasant, Kiwassa, and Collingwood over the past five years. I was invited for presentations and sharing at cultural programs and activities, but really only as a guest, until we were engaged by Frog Hollow.

What impact do you see neighbourhood houses have on your community?

The potential impact is systemic. True change begins with ideas and sharing those ideas with people we know and trust. Neighbourhood houses are where those trusted relations are created and nurtured, where people help each other and build friendships. They have already helped make Vancouver a city of volunteers. The Community Policing Centres have been built on that same model. That spirit of civic duty and volunteerism may be the greatest asset this city has.

What impact have neighbourhood houses had on your life?

Not a great deal growing up, my family was not involved when I was young. Only in the past few years, as neighbourhood houses explored reconciliation, did we begin to form and build a relationship between organizations, staff and people.

Frog Hollow has gone beyond inviting or welcoming or wanting participation, relationship and connection with Indigenous people and organizations, to the point of deciding that it is necessary for their continued operation in these territories. That is the only real way to reconcile the history and the harms of colonization. I think it has proven mutually beneficial in countless ways and with a synergy that has created results greater than the sum of the inputs.

“Norm has been our mentor, teacher and friend of Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House” shared Gloria Tsui, Intergenerational Coordinator. “Through experiences such as meditations, he has guided us in deeper connection with the land and ourselves. These experientials also open up space for deeper reflection on our work and how to approach our projects in a more decolonized way.”

Thank you, Norm, for your ongoing commitment and connection to ANHBC neighbourhood houses. Your leadership, experience and perspective push us to continue our path of decolonization, and commitment to good relationships.