In the fall of 2014, a group of inspired citizens with disabilities, University of Alberta Community Service-Learning students, researchers and Skills Society community support workers got together to curate artifacts and stories for 5 geocaches we then launched into our community. The Citizen Action Hall met once a week at the University of Alberta, and in addition to creating artifacts for our geocaches, the group discussed ideas and shared stories about citizenship and rights. All of our participants contributed important ideas, such as “I have the right to be a parent” and “I have the right to get as many tattoos as I want”.
Some weeks we had guest speakers come in, including Skills Society manager Chris McBain who led an activity that highlighted the meaning of belonging, as well as engaged citizen Carrie who talked about entrepreneurship and her craft-selling business.
We hope our geocaches inspire and cause others to think about the valuable perspective and contributions that come from people with disabilities. Some of the objects inside our geocaches are interactive and invite people to tweet ideas about citizenship using the hashtag #yegcitizens. Geocache discoverers might also be invited to leave an object, picture or note about citizenship for the next geocache discoverer.
On the last day of the Action Hall, each group made plans for hiding their geocaches in the community. Then we held the graduation ceremony and everyone received a certificate to recognize their participation in the Citizen Action Hall. Before we ended, we went around the room and talked about what had happened over the 5 weeks. Everyone had a lot of different ideas about what was the best part of Action Hall. Many participants were excited about playing around with new technologies like the geocache boxes, and everyone agreed unanimously that we had all developed valuable new friendships.
During our time together at the Citizen Action Hall, the participants also helped to host a CommuniTEA Infusion event at the University of Alberta in conjunction with the University of Alberta Alumni Association. On Wednesday, October 22, a beautiful sunny autumn afternoon, the CommuniTEA Infusion Van parked itself at Celebration Plaza. We served a variety of fine hot tea flavours to passers-by, whom we also engaged on the topic of citizenship. With the help of University of Alberta design students and our new friends at Mojo Photo Booth, we got the University community and the Twitter-verse talking about what Citizenship means to them.
We encourage all citizens to continue tweeting their own inspiring pictures and stories using the hashtag #yegcitizens