Fernie, located in the far southeast corner of BC, is home to a growing and very engaged LGBTQ2+ community and we thankfully have the Fernie Pride Society to help navigate the waters of inclusivity and sexual diversity. In March 2020, when COVID-19 first became a reality for us, I noticed that although there were immediate and wide-ranging supports available in Canada, that there was nothing specific to LGBTQ2+ people, a population that is often unemployed or underemployed and this was especially noticeable in Fernie.
Working in collaboration with the Fernie Pride Society, and thanks to the assistance of the NSG program and the Vancouver Foundation, we were able to quickly develop a COVID-19 LGBTQ2+ Assistance Fund that provided nutritional and prescription support to people in the form of care packages and grocery store gift cards. In conjunction with this, we also hosted a virtual music night, a virtual youth event, and managed to pull off one socially distanced picnic as well.
Our biggest challenge was the fact that there are still many people in the community that are still closeted and privacy was of critical importance to us. So we had to figure out how to best reach the people that would most benefit from the assistance but not put them in a position to openly express their sexuality. Eventually, we ended up just doing a larger online campaign in the region in the hopes that people would be comfortable contacting the Society directly to express their interest in the program that we developed. We were ultimately successful in distributing $1400.00 in funds as well as hosting the above in-person and virtual programs.
I always knew, but am now more convinced than ever, that collaboration is really the key to community building. Working together we are able to accomplish so much be it small virtual events or large-scale policy projects. I feel that COVID-19 has only highlighted how we can no longer afford to work and live in silos and I personally have come to appreciate my community so much more than I already did.
Fostering these community connections in the broader sense — ones that exist between individuals, organizations, funding bodies, volunteers, and so on, only work to create a safe, supportive, and diverse home for everyone and I for one, am excited to see what nurturing these connections will ultimately allow us to create.