Talking to strangers, making connections

Blanca Salvatierra (right) at the 2015 100in1Day event. | Photo courtesy of Blanca Salvatierra

Blanca Salvatierra (right) at the 2015 100in1Day event. | Photo courtesy of Blanca Salvatierra

Community development leader Blanca Salvatierra will be facilitating a public event to encourage dialogue and connection in the city as part of 100In1Day civic engagement festival on June 4. A number of temporary ‘interventions’ will be underway across Vancouver during the festival, creating spaces for like-minded individuals to connect on topics like public art, recreation, and health and wellbeing.

Salvatierra’s participation will be as an intervention leader in the Mount Pleasant area, where she will host an initiative dedicated to igniting connection and conversation among those passing by.

“My goal is to create a fun event where people can talk to their fellow stranger, and it’s seen as ok,” she says with a chuckle. “I find that many people would like to connect with others, but a lot of the time in this city you’re not sure how to start. That’s what I want to address.”

Meet your neighbour

Creating linkages between strangers is nothing new to Salvatierra. With a longstanding career in community development at the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, much of her work focuses on connecting people, working around diversity, and creating inclusive spaces.

“What I like about the 100In1Day event is that you just need to show up with a simple idea, and it can have such a big impact,” says Salvatierra.

Along with a small team, Salvatierra will be hosting an event called ‘Meet Your Neighbour.’ They’ll be armed with fun ways to bridge new conversations and strengthen community connections.

“We want to hear their stories and get a sense of what they enjoy most about the neighbourhood. It’s also a great way to welcome those who are not yet connected and offer them a sense of community,”
says Salvatierra.

From newcomer to community leader

Salvatierra, who grew up in Nicaragua, came to Canada 20 years ago and is no stranger to the unique challenges that every newcomer faces. Her ability to relate to these challenges is what keeps her in tune with the needs of those in her community and allows her to lead many programs from a place of understanding.

Salvatierra`s work focuses on community development and leadership. The IMPACT mentorship program at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House is of particular value to her clients, she says.

“We all need mentors, and sometimes it can be difficult to break into employment here without the knowledge on what education is needed or what career paths and resources are available in Canada,” she says.

Growing up in Nicaragua during a civil war and witnessing related social and economic challenges spurred Salvatierra to set her sights on working in the social sector from a young age. In Canada, her passion for working in community and leadership development grew with the support she received from her own mentors.

Salvatierra feels lucky to have met women mentors when she first came to Canada. She believes that mentorship goes a long way with newcomers who need a bit of guidance from time to time.

“I like to continue paying this guidance forward, and can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing,” she says,

The motivation behind Salvatierra’s work and participation in the event on June 4th is very much in line with the inspiration for the movement itself: to positively change how people interact with their cities and communities, one intervention at a time.

“I have this huge desire to make the world a better place, and I think that keeps me optimistic through challenges,” she says.

When a task starts to overwhelm her, Salvatierra focuses on one person and one issue at a time.

“This reminds me to just keep going, and eventually these small changes pay off,” says Salvatierra.

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