Oak Hill – On Thursday, January 30, Dialogue NB will be hosting a community meeting at the Oak Hill Hall, at 731 Route 745 in Oak Hill. The event, called “Know your Neighbour: Sharing Stories to Create Community”, is intended to break down barriers between different groups of people.
Don and Karen Olmstead of St. Stephen were tasked with leading the St. Stephen chapter of Dialogue NB in March of last year. Dialogue NB is a provincial organization with a mandate to develop “social cohesion” throughout New Brunswick. Social cohesion is a phrase that describes understanding and communication between groups which often find themselves feeling as if they lack common ground.
Dialogue NB was reorganized a few years ago to work more broadly with the issues that divide New Brunswickers and erode social cohesion. In New Brunswick, as regrettably in most western countries, we are becoming increasingly divided over issues regarding language, gender, immigration, LGBTQ rights, mental illness and the list goes on.
Olmstead said the goal with this meeting, and Dialogue NB in general, is “to bring people together, to hear each other’s stories, to break down social barriers and help to understand that we all belong.”
The event will feature three speakers, both locals and immigrants, who will tell some of their life story.
Theresa Christie-Cook is a mother of two who has lived in Oak Hill for much of her life. She says, “Two things that are important to me are my family and inclusion for everyone: no one should be left out or excluded. The birth of my daughter sparked policy change in Newfoundland and Labrador for LGBT families to gain equal rights in assigning parentage on birth certificates.”
Ammar Said immigrated from Syria four years ago. He is employed full-time and lives in St. Stephen with his wife and three children.
Olmstead reinforces the simple goal of this event. “When you speak to people from different social groups than yours, you develop an understanding and comfort that wasn’t originally there.” This simple act can do more to break down perceived barriers than any other. Realizing that there is a human being with fears and troubles and a family life just like your own, behind the fear mongering and alienation prevalent in our political discourse is liberating.
“The political process tends to divide us,” added Olmstead. “It’s we and they, all the time. And so we’re trying to counter that, by pointing out that it’s only we – there is no they, there is no other.”
Dialogue NB is planning to do a series of these events around Charlotte County. Visit them at dialoguenb.org/st-stephen/ to find an event in your area or to learn more about the organization and how you can be involved.