On June 30th, 2021, our initial funding from Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for The Stories of Us came to a close.
This marks the end of a really significant chapter for our organization. For those of you who might be newer to learning about the DIA, in 2017, Blair and I were just starting to figure out what kind of organization we wanted to be (a design challenge that continues to evolve). It had been 2 years since we first started the organization, we had taken a bit of a break in 2016 to do some strategic thinking, and because I was on Mat Leave with my first babe. So in 2017, we were both in full generator mode and ready to brainstorm what we could do within the DIA.
Fast forward to today, and it feels like we are a very different organization in some ways. Moving from being a Co-founder and co-lead of an organization to a solo CEO has been a steep learning curve for me and having The Stories of Us and Mathura by my side through the transition was really stabilizing.
While I am technically the “boss” around here, everyone who comes to work at the DIA knows that I really hate that title and the expectations that come with it and have been working really hard to figure out what it means to be the “boss”. So much of that I have learned from being Mathura’s boss.
One of the biggest takeaways I have from working with Mathura is the practice of expressing gratitude and how that feels for the gratitude giver as well as for the receiver. Being able to reflect and offer the impact of how someone made you feel is a gift and can be healing and nourishing in ways you don’t always expect.
I won’t go into all the details about why I appreciate Mathura so much (I will do that in private) but I will share a bit about how Mathura has cared for The Stories of Us, for herself, for me, for the project partners, for facilitators, for volunteers, for participants, for stories, for each interaction she had with others.
Even within this project’s challenges (and there were several), I appreciated Mathura’s thoughtfulness around why something we might have previously thought was going to work wasn’t going to anymore and that we were able to talk that through and come up with new paths forward together.
An example of this is how we had to grieve and let go of the idea that this project wasn’t going to end
with an in-person gathering or celebration like we had once imagined. We brainstormed and even tested out different ways we could attempt to replicate that virtually but ultimately nothing really felt the same. So we shifted and Mathura designed a beautiful invitation to people who have touched and been touched by The Stories of Us project and now we have 28 artifacts from volunteers, participants, facilitators, from Mathura, from Alex, and from me. It is a collection of individual stories that demonstrate the collective impact that The Stories of Us has had. The series is called #DearSoU and can be found on our YouTube page.
What I will remember most about this process is how much Mathura wanted to make sure that whoever picked up The Stories of Us next as a Program Manager or Facilitator or Funder, that they knew what this project meant to the people who were involved, that the books and the curriculum are just one set of artifacts left behind. So often the process, the intentionality, the many conversations, the collaborations, the challenges are forgotten or tucked away in a report, but #DearSoU will live on as a time capsule for this iteration.
Today, I sent off our final reports to IRCC and our Program Officer and the finality of that task feels surreal. The Stories of Us is not over, it is just taking a much-needed breather.