Community Leader: Michelle Fortin, Watari
Photographer: Kris Krug
In Japanese, watari means 'small bridge' or the act of being 'in transition’. That's us. We work on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside providing counseling and support to the community. Poverty, abuse, housing, alcohol and drugs, stigma and exclusion - we deal with it all - and we work hard to create a space that is welcoming and inclusive, that celebrates diversity and embraces all cultures.
The DTES is a stark reminder to all of us that social justice for all is still a long way off. But at the same time, it’s a place that opens its arms to all – creating safety and community for some of the most marginalized people around.
At Watari, it’s love that allows every person who walks through our doors to let us be part of their journey to health. It's love and trust that allows them to trust us with their stories. It's an honour and a privilege to be in that position. And what's most inspiring is their willingness to be open to change – and our shared genuine belief that life can, and will, get better.
Our images are of our staff and community members - the circle of love that holds us up – connected in their willingness to be vulnerable for the camera, and to smile at the opportunity to celebrate and spread love in the DTES.