May 30

By Sean Meyer

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For more than two decades, Heart-Links has been working to improve the lives of people in communities across northern Peru, but like with that classic tree falling in the forest question, if nobody knows what’s happening, does it really count?

Heart-Links grew out of work started by the Diocese of London in Peru in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The Diocese responded to a call from Peruvian bishops and in response to a number of priests, along with London’s Sisters of St. Joseph’s and Chatham’s Ursuline Sisters of Chatham, travelled to the South American country where they would remain for several years.

The Sisters of St. Joseph’s were in Zana, which is in northern Peru and is one of the three communities the organization continues to work in today.

While there they began a community kitchen program as a way to engage the women. It was a space for women to organize and become leaders in their community. It was also a place to address needs, nutrition and food for the kids.

When the Diocese pulled out, one of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s, Sister Janet Zadorsky, wanted to continue the work and she later founded Heart-Links.

Today, not only does Heart-Links support community development projects in the country, but also partners with others looking to identify local needs and propose solutions.

“I think, for me personally, I maintain and hold an international perspective. I believe in the global citizen idea that we’re all part of one world,” said Ruth Taylor, who is Heart-Links operations co-ordinator and its only paid employee. “Sometimes people say why Peru, why that particular place? The people there feel recognized and appreciate there are people somewhere else in the world who care about what happens to them.”

The goals of the organization are three-fold — accompaniment, financing and raising awareness in Canada.

That third goal is one Ruth Taylor has found to be particularly challenging, but also made easier since Heart-Links became an Innovation Works co-tenant just over a year ago.

For Ruth, engaging people, encouraging them to look beyond just the community they can see in front of them, is just as important as the organizations’ other priorities.

For London, she adds, it’s important because it helps create a more open and welcoming community.

Having been a cotenant for just over a year, Ruth said in her experience, the atmosphere at Innovation Works is about building a network, but also engaging Londoners in the idea of the global, encouraging channels for people to engage in their global selves.

There is a number of initiatives — more opportunities she says with a laugh than one can actually take part in — that allow for informal chats and connections, thing’s she’s found “useful and really positive.”

While there is a mix of formal and informal events, the big advantage of being at Innovation Works (Heart-Links has one of the private office spaces) is not only the sharing of resources, ideas and experiences, but the opportunity to actually bolster each other’s efforts.

“It helps to break down the feeling of us and them that is often really strong. Ultimately, we’re all in this together,” Ruth said. “As a small organization, an organization where many of the outcomes are overseas, Innovation Works provided for us the opportunity to highlight what we’re doing, to talk to other people in London about what we’re doing, and to be involved here at home.”

Want to sit side-by-side with people like Ruth? Consider joining us at Innovation Works!