2 min

Connecting with dignity

Shakespeare's project aims to build community

Credit: Robin Perelle

It’s about the kindof community we want to live in, say Roz Shakespeare of her latest initiative, Hand in Hand. It’s about “community building community, maintaining community, creating community.

“You can tell I’m passionate about this,” she adds with a laugh.

Shakespeare is no stranger to passion-driven, community-building initiatives. Two years ago, she created the gay programs coordinator position at the Vancouver Police Department. Last year she struggled-successfully-to preserve and prioritize it. And that was after she paved the way as Canada’s first out transsexual police officer to transition on the job.

By the time she retired from the force in April, she had already co-founded a new group to offer queer sensitivity training to police, fire departments and other organizations.

Now, she’s preparing to launch yet another initiative Sep 25. This one is called Hand in Hand and it’s based on a simple model. Get some volunteers together from the queer community, organize them into teams and deploy them to the homes of older or disabled queers who could use a hand around the house. “This is a way to help our community, support our community and create opportunities” to meet more people, she says.

It will be good for the volunteers as well as the recipients, she stresses. Young volunteers in particular will get the chance to meet some of the pioneers of this community. “They’ll be meeting the people who created the space for them to have the life [they lead] today.” Queer youth need such role models, she notes.

And the recipients, many of whom will lack mobility due to aging, AIDS or disabilities, will not only get a chance to feel proud of their homes again, but to re-connect with community, she continues.

So far, Shakespeare has eight volunteers and two projects lined up-one to paint someone’s house and another to work on someone’s garden. She admits that it can be difficult to find people willing to admit they need help, let alone willing to accept help. But she won’t be deterred. She’s meeting with local AIDS agencies to see if some of their clients might need a hand.

It’s about “dignity, respect and support for all of us,” she says.

It’s about creating “a place where we’re all equal and we all have value and we all have something to give and something to receive.”


Roz Shakespeare.