Welcome to CSI Regent Park!
My name is Natasha Stephens and I am the newly appointed manager at the Centre for Social Innovation Regent Park. If you want to know a bit about my background, check out my profile here (I’m pretty amazing!). But for my first blog to the CSI Community, I thought I should tell you about my interest in Regent Park and how I joined CSI. The story starts with how I came to Regent Park.
When I immigrated to Canada from the U.K. in 2008, I wanted to live a life centred on helping people. Through a friend I heard that a social agency, 416 Community Support for Women, on Dundas and Sherbourne was looking for volunteers. The clientele are mostly women facing issues around homelessness, prescription and illegal drug addiction, and mental health. While volunteering at 416, I developed a deep personal commitment to the women, many of whom live in Regent Park and the Moss Park area. I soon became more involved in the area; serving at community dinners for the homeless/hostel community along Jarvis and Shuter, and becoming a volunteer at the Regent Park Drop-in. By Summer 2011, I couldn’t walk along Dundas Street East from Sherbourne to Parliament without bumping into someone I knew.
Also around Summer 2011, I began to feel disconnected from the city living near Harbourfront. I wanted to do more than reacting to social problems. I started to investigate ways in which I could use my years of experience as an IT professional in investment banking and a small-business owner in property management, to bring about effective social change. Within a few months, I moved to Regent Park.
One day while I was talking to my landlady about a social enterprise I was working on, she took my hand and told me to join her at the Regent Park Community Health Centre, where we would look for a suitable job for me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that people don’t look for jobs that way anymore. However, my slightly mocking attitude changed when she asked at the reception desk if there were any jobs for her friend and the lady at the desk pointed at the notice board where I read “Job Posting – Manager, Centre for Social Innovation Regent Park.” By this time I thought my landlady might be my angel, so I said, “Let’s go into the Regent Park Employment Services Office and see what they have there.”
I walked up to the desk and said to the man standing there, “I want to work in Regent Park.” After I gave a brief synopsis of my skills and employment background, he searched on the database and lo and behold he pulled up the same job! From that event, as they say, the rest is history.
I didn’t know anything about CSI when I first saw the posting but after attending an information session and preparing for the role, I knew that we shared the same vision for what can be accomplished in Regent Park through social innovation.
I believe we have a profound opportunity through programming and our extraordinary network of exceptionally talented people and organizations to accomplish great impact throughout the GTA and beyond. I also believe that Regent Park will make a tremendous impact on CSI, and on the network of people who call CSI home.
Come believe and journey with me.