Watari: Facilitating Meaningful Change

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Reel Causes’ second virtual event, Bella Ciao!, is a collaborative effort. The film features an ensemble cast that weaves stories of friends and neighbours – activists, artists, hustlers and coffee house consiglieri – to capture how traditions of solidarity renew across cultures and generations.

With such a strong sense of community attached to the story, we decided to feature two causes: Watari and Casa Salvador Allende. To highlight the excellent work Watari is doing in the community, we asked them a few questions.

Bella Ciao! features Constanza, a Chilean refugee, over the course of one day. Watari’s programming includes support for the Latinx community in the Downtown Eastside. What services do you offer? 

Bella Ciao! is about community, home, and connectedness, which is a perfect match for what we do at Watari. For over two decades, we’ve been partnering with organizations to support and connect the Latinx community with community kitchens and community gardens at multiple locations in the lower mainland. We have programming targeted specifically for agricultural migrant workers (primarily from Mexico, Guatemala, and Chile, but who come from all over Latin America and the Caribbean) with out-trips, counselling, health care access, health fairs, and bicycles that increase their mobility.

Because we provide both counselling and support services, we can also address trauma faced by community members fleeing persecution from organized crime, intimate family violence, and/or forced displacement from their ancestral lands due to mining or hydroelectric megaprojects. Widespread corruption, oppression and repression are common in their homelands, and they can’t see a future for themselves and their children as long as those regimes exist.

In the current COVID-19 health crisis, we have been able to help Latinx households with housing subsidies, food hampers, hygiene supplies, outreach, advocacy, and wellness walks that adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Tell us more about Watari and its organizational goals.

Watari’s mission is to facilitate meaningful change and provide a bridge to healthier possibilities through innovative, community driven and supportive programming.

Our service is trauma-informed and based on an individual’s innate strengths, capabilities, and desire for wellness. We encourage an exploration and deeper understanding of self and community, so that people can make informed choices, and we provide opportunities to the people we support that allow them to see themselves as competent and capable.

This mission and philosophy support our four main objectives:

  • To deliver respectful, individualized service
  • To empower the people we support by encouraging relationships with service providers, family and community members
  • To work within a community development model to address personal and collective change
  • To provide trauma sensitive work environments for both staff and the people we support

Reel Causes is donating a portion of ticket sales to Watari. How do you envision these funds will help support your organization and the community it serves?

Watari will use these funds to provide essentials to families as part of our COVID-19 community response. We have so many families in our circle who either have precarious immigration status or are undocumented. As a result, they don’t have resources and aren’t able to access services, further marginalizing them and putting them in immediate crisis.

How can folks support Watari?

First off, we are so grateful to Reel Causes and the Bella Ciao! team for sharing the proceeds of this event with us and with Casa Salvador Allende. We couldn’t do this work without the donations and generosity of folks like you. 

The most obvious way to support us is through financial donations via our website or CanadaHelps — but we also really need practical items:

  • Fabric masks for agriculture migrant workers
  • Hygiene materials, including menstrual supplies and diapers
  • Supplies for young families, especially formula and art supplies

For more information about Watari, you can read their annual reports here.

Learn more about Bella Ciao! here and join us for the live Q&A on July 9th.

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About Reel Causes Society

Reel Causes partners with filmmakers and Canadian causes dedicated to addressing global social justice issues. We host film screenings followed by a Q&A session to educate and inspire our community, and provide a forum for authentic conversation around the issues that affect us locally.

City of Vancouver
SFU Woodwards
BC Arts Council
Consumer Protection BC
Creative BC