“I travel vicariously,” explains Kealy.
Kathie Kealy is the coordinator for Organizing Against Racism and Hate (OARH), and organization working within the community to help break down barriers and stereotypes.
Kealy has just finished telling me about each of the many different objects on her office shelves.
There is a doll from Japan, a piece of art from Australia which reminds her of her Australian friend, sand from a beach in Africa, and many more, all pieces she has collected to remind her about the incredible diversity in the world.
It seems like a very appropriate collection for someone in charge of OARH, an organization Kealy describes as “celebrating community diversity and harmony.”
The Fort organization is still fairly young, but Kealy is the second coordinator to head up the group, replacing Shana Labatch, who left the position to focus on other things and she finished up her education.
Kealy came into the role in July, and seems very comfortable in her new job, explaining to me how she moved to Fort St. James in January of 2001 from Tumbler Ridge and was really impressed with the diversity of the community and how everybody got along.
“And it still amazes me,” she remarks.
There are around 40 different nations of origin in Fort St. James, Kealy explains, with the celebration of the strengths this kind of diversity brings to the community the focus of the organization.
While the initial stages of OARH have involved a lot of study and discussion, Kealy is now working on making things happen to bring the organization out into a more visible role within the community.
There is currently a Chili Blankets winter clothing drive going on as part of the Hunger and Homelessness Week, and Kealy is also excited to partner with the library to help bring cultural presentations to the community.
The presentations would involve talks, slideshows or other media by members of the community about places they have lived or visited.
“The more we know about each other, the more we understand … the better the world is,” says Kealy, who emphasizes how interesting it can be to hear about a place from someone in the community.
“The more you talk to people, the more you learn,” explains Kealy.
Fighting racism is a slow process, admits Kealy, but she hopes by bringing knowledge about different cultures to the community, she can help.
“I wish I had a magic wand to fix racism and hate, but maybe through this celebration piece we’ll chip away at it,” she says.
While Kealy herself is not a world traveller, she has loved to hear the stories of her friends who are, and her husband is from England, so she has a great appreciation for other cultures and what they can offer.
Her role with OARH now gives her the chance to take advantage of this life-long love and she says it is “just a real opportunity to feed on those personal interests and an opportunity to give back to the community, make the world a better place.
“The OARH Project is a really good thing for this community, it’s a real opportunity for us.”
Kealy is also working on other initiatives, such as ethnic cooking classes in the Fireweed community kitchen at the College of New Caledonia. The first one will take place this week, in the evenings, and will include dishes from the Phillippines and the next classes will be Italian dishes for two nights in November.