On June 10th, 2014, Voces Del Canal, in partnership with DataCenter, presented the findings from their community-driven research report “Building Safe Communities through Strong Partnerships in the Canal.”* Four resident leaders from the Canal community in San Rafael, California explained their experiences in front of an audience of over 70 people including the San Rafael Mayor, Police Chief, and members of Marin County’s Board of Supervisors. The Canal residents affirmed their roles as authentic, local experts, and gave power to their lived experiences with testimony backed by research THEY did with DataCenter support.
“Every family has the right to feel safe. We have the right to live in a safe community and to get the services that we need. We need to bring the community together to talk about these issues and we need support on how to make this change.” — Marina, Canal Resident Leader
DataCenter trained a dedicated team of 13 Canal resident leaders to design and implement their own community survey project. Together, they conducted 678 survey interviews documenting the residents’ personal stories, opinions, and visions for a healthier Canal.
“I went to [the] Community Center to find a program to help my son with reading. They didn’t have anything available for his age and we couldn’t afford any of the programs with fees.”— A Mother and Canal Resident
The gathered information combined with the residents’ first-hand testimony produced a powerful presentation that was delivered in Spanish with simultaneous English interpretation. For the first time, Canal residents were recognized as experts of their own lives in front of the decision makers they hope to move. Their message was clear.
“It takes the community and the people who have power to partner together to make real change.”— Canal Resident
The Canal residents are calling for more meaningful community engagement and collaboration with local institutions and agencies. They want to work in partnership with key decision-makers and actively participate in the development of community-determined priorities and solutions. They also seek to strengthen community cohesion within the Canal, empowering families to take a proactive role, becoming community social change agents.
*The Voces Del Canal report was a collaborative effort between DataCenter, the Canal Alliance, Dominican University, and Voces Del Canal, with support from Marin Community Foundation.