Katheren Szabo knows how to make peace with her fears.

Which is something most of us aspire to.

Especially during these outrageous, topsy turvy times when a low level state of fear hovers  like a dirty cloud. 

For many good reasons that are too personal to be told by anyone but her, Katheren’s fear kept her isolated in her housing complex in the Newton neighbourhood of Surrey, British Columbia for ten years.

Fear for her safety. Fear of strangers. Fear for her four children. Fear of the past. Fear of the unknown. 

Fear that might have magnified after she heard the news that a local Mom had been robbed of $40.00 and murdered in broad daylight beside a park called The Grove near Katheren’s home.

Instead of retreating further Katheren did the thing she thought she could never do. She left her home, headed to The Grove and began a sixty day vigil for peace and safety. The Grove – where drugs are dealt and consumed. Where men bluster and stagger. Where the suggestion of danger lurks and people hurry through on the way to somewhere else.

Why did she do it?

“Because Julie looked a lot like me,” says Katheren. “I identified with her. She was the same size as me, a bit younger  .. dirty blonde hair. Besides, due to my own life experiences I had been mute for 50 years. That’s long enough.”

In those days she didn’t know a soul. Five years later she’s known as the heart of Newton. People know her and because of her, they know each other.

She helped create Friends of the Grove. They use music, art and playfulness to bring fun, peace and harmony to The Grove and Newton neighbourhood.

She started Cedar Bark Poets (there’s a beautiful cluster of cedars in The Grove) to publish and distribute the work of local poets. She knows the special talent that poets have to make desecrated places sacred again. Perhaps that is why the facilitator of Cedar Bark Poets for two years was the daughter of the Mom who was killed. And who once swore she would never have anything to do with the scene of her Mother’s murder.

She discovered Fambul Tok (family talk) a community process of reconciliation that emerged to heal the wounds of Sierra Leone’s brutal, “blood diamond” civil war. She thought it could help heal the lingering pain in her neighbourhood. So she organized Canada’s first Fambul Tok, a multi-cultural celebration of peace, forgiveness and community. 

Along the way she’s picked up awards, acknowledgments and speaking gigs. Including keynote speaker at the Canada-Sierra Leona Cultural Heritage Day. And she is one of the headliners at Surrey’s Social Innovation Summit this fall.

Clearly Katheren’s life is expanding in proportion to her peacemaking.

You can experience her convincing and beautiful presence for yourself by visiting with her any day from now until August 5th from 10:00 am to noon, weather permitting. Or follow her on twitter @Katherenfog . Or consider inviting her to speak. (Let me know and I’ll make an introduction.)

She’s ready for the world to call. And with good reason.

We have so much to learn from her.

EH!

Perhaps there is only one distinction that matters: those who are learning to love their neighbours and those who remain indifferent to them. ~ Mary Jo Leddy

Musical selection this post is Paddy Dem by Fazineh. A former child soldier in Sierra Leone, he now lives and works in Vancouver. Check him out and support his music here.

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Visit socialchangequotes.com to browse Canada’s largest collection of quotes about social change, curated by Al Etmanski.

 

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