After over a year without a permanent executive director, Pink Triangle Services (PTS) has filled the vacancy. Ken Mews served as HIV/AIDS coordinator for the Red Cross for 15 years, along with other HIV/AIDS-related positions. He was announced as the new executive director at PTS’s annual general meeting on Jun 26 at their Nepean St offices.
Wayne Adams, who now sits on the PTS board, served as interim-executive director following Michelle Reis-Amores’ resignation in May 2006, when she cited board interference as the reason for her sudden departure. Mews sat down with Capital Xtra to discuss how he plans to polish PTS’s tarnished image amid falling donations and lagging interest from the community.
Capital Xtra: Over the last few years there has been a decline in donors and volunteers at PTS. Do you have any plans to bring people back and renew the interest that has waned?
Ken Mews: One of our roles in education is that we have to help the community understand that a lot of the issues that were burning issues 15, 20 years ago, we’ve made a lot of progress [on] in this community.
It’s important for this organization to serve the needs not just for the majority, but it’s important for them to serve the needs of the most under-serviced and the people on the margins. I’m not suggesting that we give up programs like Triangle Youth that has been very successful and serves a very strong need. But I am suggesting that we need to add — or look at adding — programs for more marginalized groups.
CX: And from that you think you’ll gain the donors?
KM: I think it’s important that we be responsive, but I also think it’s important that we be relevant. We have to let people know what we’re doing. I think once people recognize that we are a vital force within the community and providing services that no one else is providing we’ll be able to rebuild that donor base. It also takes work.
We have an expert fundraising person on our board now, who’s got a background in that specific area, and knows the technical side as well, in Wayne Adams.
CX: What are you learning now? What aspects are coming up on your radar that you need to learn more about? What is your day-to-day like now?
KM: I’m meeting with people primarily, that’s one of my major priorities right now, to make myself known in the community. There are some wonderful trans people both at the board level and in discussion groups in this organization, and that’s an area that, although I have some understanding, I’m getting an education.
I was able to attend part of a police advisory committee open-house meeting and I think that that’s something I need to investigate more thoroughly, and I’m hoping that PTS can play a role … Ricky [Barnes, gay men’s outreach coordinator] and I have had a long conversation about what PTS’s role might be on the liaison committee, and are hoping to work together kind of as a tag-team to restore self-confidence in the community that our issues and our voices are being heard. Those are a couple of examples of areas where I’ve realized that I need to know more.
CX: What would you tell former donors and volunteers has changed, now that it’s 2007 and you’re in this role. What’s different?
KM: We’re in growth mode. We’re no longer trying to hold our own, we’re determined to serve the community and make it better. We are providing services that are well received by the community, services that people appreciate. We have very strong support from people who participate in our peer counselling groups, and I think people realize that if we weren’t providing those services nobody else would provide those services.
We need the broad support of the community in order to be able to do more work. So we’re here, we are a tool that the community can use for community development, and we will listen to whatever people want to ask of us.
CX: What are you priorities in this position and for PTS?
KM: I’m still in the process of absorbing. I refer to myself as a sponge. I have a long background in the HIV/AIDS area but there are lots of other issues affecting the [queer] community.
We have one specific project that we’re in the early stages of developing. It’s a review and evaluation of our current programs to try and find out what the community needs, and what the priorities are in the community if we are going to expand our programs.
CX: You mentioned finding out what the community needs and reviewing things. How exactly are you going to gauge what they want now, and how to go about delivering that?
KM: We haven’t yet established a process, but we have secured funding. We’re probably going to be calling on someone who has an expertise in program evaluation to help us put this together but I can assure you that it’s going to involve wide consultation with as many groups and individuals as we can afford to do.