also needed to plan for a wide variety of possibilities due
to the unstructured nature of the Learning Centre and the fact
that we don't know who will be in on any
given evening. There were numerous instances where the activities planned were
not entirely successful due to lack of interest, a different grouping of women,
or a different kind of energy in the room. For example, one
evening a much-loved craft
activity was planned. Women just started working on it when an announcement
was made about a Beauty Night being held at the Downtown Health Clinic a few
blocks over. The room emptied out in minutes. Or at women's request an activity
was planned, but on the night the instructor arrived with the materials, most
of the women who had requested the activity were not in that
evening due to illness. We
tried not to see these experiences as "failures" but as conditions of our literacy
work. Instead, we looked forward to those other chaotic events that were so positive.
instance, one woman came into the Learning Centre just as clean up started and
was desperate to make a Christmas stocking for her cat. (Felt Christmas Stockings
other decorations were the evening activity). She quickly worked at her stocking,
frantic at first but then relaxed as she got into it. Knowing she kept the instructor
late, when she finished she looked up and said,
for staying to help me finish this, I forgot how much fun it is to
make something with your hands."
- Instructor – Weekly Reports.
violence and aggression are so much a part of women's lives
at WISH. In the Learning Centre
we knew that we had to come up with new ways to approach
conflict that would respect individuals and respect the safe environment of
the Learning Centre. We knew that our "authority" positions
were both powerful and meaningless. At any moment, we could
represent a powerful figure to any
particular woman. We also knew that if women chose to be physically aggressive,
there was not much we could do.