A member of our extended A Rocha community passed away this January. Her name was Debbie, and she was a friend of the A Rocha-led community gardens in Winnipeg.
Debbie spent a lot of time standing on the street near St. Margaret’s Anglican Church, talking to passersby and selling copies of the Street Sheet, the local paper published by Winnipeg’s marginalized population. Most people thought she was homeless, but she wasn’t. She struggled with mental health issues, but she was industrious and persistent, and managed, with help from family and unemployment benefits, to pay for a stable apartment.
In 2010, A Rocha began a community garden project in partnership with St. Margaret’s, and Debbie became friends with the A Rocha interns.
She volunteered in the garden and attended cooking workshops.
The interns learned that Debbie’s apartment needed to be painted, and they spent two full days helping her clean and re-paint.
She began attending the church itself and brought the priest a chocolate bar every week to encourage him in his sermon participation.
Debbie eventually became one of St. Margaret’s most faithful tithers, often emptying into the offering plate all the change she’d just earned from selling papers to parishioners outside the church doors.
She had found a new place to belong.
And then she passed away.
Debbie’s siblings, who were with her when she died, say that she was very different in the past few years. They told Jen Kornelson, the lead A Rocha staff on the St. Margaret’s project, that she had found a new peace, and they credited her transformation to the power of belonging to and serving in a loving community.
The beautiful part is that Debbie wasn’t the only one enriched by her presence in the community gardens. Her friendship, offered from a place of vulnerability, enriched and transformed the lives of those A Rocha interns, too, as well as many others around her.
Some would say that Debbie’s transformation and impact aren’t the stuff of “planet-saving,” but at A Rocha we think they most certainly are.
Care for creation and care for those on the margins go hand-in-hand. After all, the most vulnerable around the world, and even those in Canada’s own urban settings, are usually the most affected by environmental degradation. . . .
– by Markuu Kostamo in A Rocha Newsletter dated April 25, 2016