Thirteen young leaders from across Canada recently completed capacity-building and planning components of the Pathy Foundation Fellowship, and have now begun a nine-month journey implementing their planned initiatives alongside their respective community partners.
The Fellowship is an intensive 12-month opportunity for graduating students from five partner universities – Bishop’s University, McGill University, University of Ottawa, Queen’s University, and StFX University – who have an existing meaningful connection with a community anywhere in the world and an innovative initiative idea to strengthen that community.
The Community Phase is when Fellows work in and with their identified communities. During this phase, Fellows receive ongoing support and distance learning from Coady, as well as regular sessions with the Fellows’ personal coach.
Ben Heywood-MacLeod | McGill University
Community: Williamsford, ON
Initiative: A Road to Reconciliation
The asset-based, community driven development toolkit, the participatory methodologies, and the abundance mindset [of the Fellowship] have been really useful. They have shaped this into an initiative focused on the flourishing of all people.
A Road to Reconciliation
Ben Heywood-MacLeod is a McGill University graduate working in his home community near Negro Creek Road in Grey County, Ontario, Canada to commemorate a Black history site and build knowledge, advocacy, and right relationships within the area’s communities.
“Negro Creek Road is a sign that I live right near and have my whole life,” Ben explains, “I never thought too deeply about it”
“But after the murder of George Floyd, and this sort of collective lens that we now have to understand systemic racism and white supremacy today, I looked a little harder.
“I noticed that sign in a different light.”
Ben is working in partnership with the Sheffield Park Black History and Cultural Museum.
“Carolynn and Sylvia Wilson are incredible stewards of local Black history and marginalized knowledges. Against all of the systemic and social forces in the area, they’ve preserved just an immense wealth of knowledge,” Ben says.
“They taught me about my own local history.”
“There was a vibrant Black community right on the same concessions that I grew up on. That community was there for over a hundred years. It was built up of 50 families, or so. I’m currently in the archives learning more about each of them.
“And then although, you know, flourishing, vibrant, and resilient, they were also dispossessed of their lands – and thus began the process of forced erasure of their presence.”
One goal of Ben’s Fellowship initiative is to work with direct descendants of the Negro Creek settlement, and the museum, to gather both documented and oral histories. After working with local residents – those who are non-descendants – to build greater understanding and advocacy for this history, the descendants and local residents will then work collectively to develop and build a physical commemoration site.
“The asset-based, community-driven development (ABCD) toolkit we were taught in the Fellowship is going to be quite useful in my community – both in terms of building power in the hands of the people with the lived experience and local connection to the issues that we’re trying to reckon with, all while adopting a lens of abundance,” Ben explains.
“Typically in my area when Black history is confronted or acknowledged, it’s done in a way where not all people who ought to be around the decision-making table are present. Power is often co-opted, and then only certain stories are showcased. Or alternatively, the focus is on racism and white supremacy, which is important, but also very limiting because I think these days, many of us have a perverse appetite for Black struggle which is only a part of the story.”
“I’m really excited to be drawing from the wealth of knowledge of the Coady Institute to undertake peacebuilding and conflict management and mitigation workshops with locals so that they feel more prepared to go and have the difficult conversations with their neighbors about our land.
“By centering relationships in the work and the building of relationships of reciprocity and trust, I’ve already seen a transformative experience between locals and descendants; that’s what I’m most excited about – the building of these resilient relationships and the knowledge sharing that goes on when everybody has the capacity, space, and trust to share.”
“By looking at the direct descendants as a distinct political entity, it’s been very empowering. I think that they have stories about the land that they’ve wanted to tell for a long time. And this is just one sort of small opening for them to tell them”
Lauren Sobot | StFX University
Community: Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), Nova Scotia
Initiative: Proud Pairs
My project has evolved quite a bit since I applied. A lot of the changes were brought about by the relationships I built within the community, which was a skill that was really emphasized in [the Fellowship]. We learned the importance of building relationships and maintaining those relationships.
Lauren Sobot is a StFX University graduate working to establish a mentorship program between 2SLGTBQ+ youth and adults in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), Nova Scotia, Canada.
“I thought of the idea of starting a mentorship program because of a great experience that I’ve had with my own mentors at university,” Lauren explains.
Proud Pairs will connect 2SLGTBQ+ youth between the ages of 15 and 23 with an adult in the 2SLGTBQ+ community in an effort to build connection, community, confidence, and resilience.
“I had a difficult time coming out to my parents when I was 16. In university, I took social psychology with a professor at StFX, Dr. Karen Blair; she does LGBTQ psychology research. I got involved in her lab over the years. I took four of her university courses and then one with her wife, Dr. Rhea Ashley Hoskin, as well. The three of us got the opportunity to talk about our experiences with navigating life as LGBTQ, and they shared their advice with me. They were role models for me, and they served as living, breathing proof that I could be happy, successful and fulfilled as a gay woman.”
Through the Pathy Foundation Fellowship, Lauren has developed new skills and tools that are helping to shape her initiative – notably Coady Institute’s asset-based, community development (ABCD) approach.
“I’ve learned the value of community-based development and using an asset-based approach,” she explains.
“Instead of focusing solely on the disparities for LGBTQ folks – how difficult it is to come out and have to face societal and family pressure – I’ve been trying to focus on our resilience, the incredible bonds that we form in this community, and the chosen family that we have.
“I think that’s been a really big mindset shift.”
Lauren says developing and implementing a project of this scale can sometimes feel daunting, but she reminds herself that it is all in the name of helping others.
“If I could help just one person, then that would be success. That keeps me humble, keeps me grounded – just helping one person become more comfortable with themselves, see themselves in another person, or feel like they have a better future as an LGBTQ person – that’s success.”
To learn more about the Pathy Foundation Fellowship, visit pathyfellowship.com
For more on the 2021-2022 Pathy Fellowship cohort and their community initiatives, visit: