Fighting for Peace: REACH Hosts International Delegation
A delegation of visitors from Peace In Our Cities, including a team from Empire Fighting Chance, visited Edmonton October 28 to November 4 to connect with local leaders, community organizers and police to share learnings about making cities safer.
Peace in Our Cities (PiOC) is a diverse network of cities and organizations around the world driven by its members’ need to address the most severe forms of violence. PiOC believes cities that are safe, just, and peaceful for all are possible with sustained commitment.
Empire Fighting Chance was co-founded by Martin Bisp, who was in Edmonton to learn about how to create the community connections that REACH Edmonton specializes in fostering.
“All I ever hear is how great REACH is everywhere I go,” said Bisp. “I met Jan Fox at a Peace in our Cities gathering in Colombia. We need to make our own REACH in Bristol, so we came here to learn.”
Empire Fighting Chance uses the boxing gym as the central hub for offering supports to at-risk youth in the community, connecting them to educational supports, therapy, and other resources in a judgement-free zone.
“People might feel embarrassed to go see a therapist, but nobody’s embarrassed to walk into the boxing gym,” says Bisp.
The organization has grown so much in the community since its founding, that it now sees the need for an organization like REACH in Bristol, to manage the relationships and coordinate partnerships between service providers, government, funders, and clients in the community.
Bisp was impressed that the City of Edmonton pro-actively founded REACH in 2010, to take on this essential coordinating role. In Bristol, the drive to create a coordinating council like REACH is being led by the community from the ground-up.
In addition to meeting with REACH program staff and stakeholders, the delegation met with Mayor Sohi, Edmonton Police Service, and other community leaders. These meetings included site visits to partner organizations and a ride-along with the 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team. This gave everyone a chance to learn about what communities around the globe are doing to make cities safer.
“We know the best solutions always come from the community,” says Jan Fox, Executive Director at REACH Edmonton. “But community doesn’t always have the voice or capacity to implement the solution they know will work. That’s where an organization like REACH is so essential.”
The key to doing this work effectively is trust.
“Trust is the special ingredient that makes what the not-for-profit sector does, work,” says Fox. “REACH is able to fill this role because we have built that trust across sectors over many years.”
Fox added that REACH is also working with a small group of interested partners to explore the creation of an initiative similar to Empire Fighting Chance for youth in Edmonton.