A new podcast about community building and neighbour to neighbour support
Back in December, Lisa Kowalchuk and Darryl D’Souza started planning a podcast about St. James Town that would focus on how neighbours act together to solve problems and improve life in their neighbourhood. They were motivated by what they saw as a deficit in news media coverage of the neighbourhood, and a desire to shine a spotlight on the talent, energy and ingenuity of the community in responding to longstanding challenges.
Darryl, a resident of St. James Town since 2015, is a member and volunteer of the St. James Town Community Cooperative, and has more than ten years of experience working as a journalist and broadcaster.
Lisa is a sociology professor at the University of Guelph, where she teaches courses about social movements, gender, and international development. She lives in Toronto, and volunteers in St. James Town.
When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the two put aside the topics they were going to cover, such as food security, the safety of buildings, how people organize in their buildings, efforts to overcome social isolation, and the lives of newcomers, youth, and seniors. They decided to start instead with a focus on the somewhat more urgent and time-sensitive topic of COVID-19 — especially how residents are helping each other to deal with the pandemic, often supported by agencies with very dynamic and energetic staff. They never anticipated having to do all interviews by phone, and did not think it possible until they tried it.
The podcast launched on May 11, and will release its 5th episode on June 8. All five episodes focus on coping with COVID-19.
The website for the podcast will soon be made AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) compliant. As part of that effort, the team was joined by Emily Blakelock, who is making transcriptions of each episode.
The podcast is meant to be of service to St. James Town residents, a way to inspire even more neighbour-to-neighbour connectedness by showcasing ways that this is already happening. It is also intended to prompt awareness outside the neighbourhood of the need for greater resources from government and others to support the neighbourly initiatives people are carrying out.
After the fifth episode, the team will take a pause from weekly production schedule to strategize coverage of the topics they were initially planning. They anticipate, however, that the pandemic will affect most other issues for some time to come, and may make phone interviews the norm for the foreseeable future.
All five episodes, which run about 30 minutes each, can be accessed from the podcast website www.stjamestownstoreys.com or on several major podcasting platforms such as Spotify, Stitcher, and Apple.