We had our book launch on Friday. Jehan Chaudhry, the Executive Director of Sandgate Women’s Shelter spoke about our enduring partnership helping immigrant women. Several contributors read from the book “Food for Language” an MCIS Cookbook Collective.
I spoke about my serendipitous entry into a world where I would support victims of domestic violence. That time in the distant past when I started working out of a storefront which housed our little non-profit which then had two hundred thousand dollars in revenue and 2.5 staff, including myself. We were passionate about what we did reaching out to everyone who would listen to us, the police and private bar alike, to educate them about our interpretation services for victims of violence. We knew immigrant women who endured assaults everyday would not come out and seek help unless they could operate within the sphere of comfort offered by their own language. In those days I never invited anyone to my office – so ashamed was I of those shabby digs. I was not convinced I had made the right decision straddling two careers when I could have plunged headlong into law full-time.
Then one day an interpreter came to my office and talked to me about her vicarious trauma from helping a woman at a shelter. In order to respect the woman’s confidentiality, I did not delve deep. A few months later I read about a case where an Ontario Superior Court judge had adjourned the sentencing hearing, emotionally overcome and weeping after listening to a woman’s victim impact statement, where she described assault and neglect of her toddler and herself that bordered on torture. Her accused husband was sentenced to 6 years in prison. (Yes-only 6 years)! Anyway, I found out then that it was the same case our interpreter had worked on. She had been pivotal in ensuring the woman’s case was vigorously prosecuted, based on powerful evidence the woman had given in her mother tongue. Well this case changed everything for me. I began to value my work much more and to take great pride in it. Since those early days, somewhat sadly, we have grown to help thousands. Parallel to this, we have grown our revenue generating arm expanding it to provide a full suite of language services to the public and private sectors.
Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of your roots, purpose and beginnings when you are caught in the daily grind. This book, entirely a volunteer effort on the part of our staff, will anchor us back. Rich with stories, people have narrated, and food histories of the recipes shared, it is a wonderful reminder of our diversity. It also abounds with compassion which is often lost when we are “competing” to win bids. For me personally, it was a much needed breath of fresh air. Rather than donate money to our shelter partner we offered something enduring and enchanting that would snowball into a “fund-raiser” for their community kitchen. The book is on Amazon and is already being given away as Christmas/holiday presents. We will hold a town hall with the staff to think of ways to sustain this initiative. It’s by no means perfect but is not meant to be. Like a life full of crags and crannies, it has grammar issues and design flaws. But it is heartfelt, soulful and a wonderful use of technology to bring back memories of times when women bonded in the kitchen creating wonderful recipes while chatting and sharing! Find us on Amazon or this holiday season do something personal like putting together a family recipe book of your own!