When this program started peer-support looked like it could be a number of excellent facilitated activities that would take place in community centres, libraries and meeting rooms. That’s how we designed SPARK.
As part of the Victorian Government’s strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of trans and gender diverse Victorians and, as called for in the March 2019 TransGathering, SPARK aims to revitalise TGD Peer Support activities by offering a support package that will help us build kinship and resilience across all of our intersections. Peer-Support is broadly defined as sharing knowledge and emotional, social or practical support among equals with common lived experience and affinity. They may or may not be formally organised or trained and support might be one-to-one, or in a group context and can occur face-to-face and/or online.
We were thinking a lot about how we could be inclusive of ALL of the forms of peer-support that take place informally and formally in a variety of cultural contexts. We were just in the process of convening a panel of ‘expert voices’ from perspectives that are not so well represented on our Community Reference Group. We thought that these might include people who work with and as a part of Aboriginal, Jewish and disability activism networks. We were mindful that we had no access to TGD kid’s voices and considered the ethics of inviting parent ‘champions’.
When we called for SPARK applications we spread the call wide:
We acknowledge that ‘trans and gender-diverse’ has different meanings in different cultural communities and, in some cases, our identities may be affirmed within a wider umbrella of LGBTQI+. Key facilitators should identify as trans or gender-diverse (and here we include non-binary folk in the TGD acronym). Whenever possible, expenditure of funds should support, TGD community networks. We particularly encourage applications from the intersections of Aboriginal, CALD, neurodiversity, rural, regional, people with disability, and groups that experience multiple forms of social exclusion or marginalisation.
And this is how we defined the program itself:
SPARK is a pilot project intended to make visible some of the excellent peer support that is already happening in our communities and to resource the development of new sustainable networks of affinity and belonging. It’s not a grants scheme, because we will be working with you to try and make the work happen.
So much has changed thanks to COVID19. Nevertheless, we strive onwards!
We approved over 30 SPARK projects...
Now we are inviting our SPARK members to think through how they’ll adapt their activities - which range from writing and zine publishing groups to rock climbing and table-top gaming – into online equivalents, at least for the short term.
Hopefully, by the end of the year, we’re in a place to celebrate some of these activities in an 'actual' face to face gathering.
Meanwhile, we’re rethinking how we might offer the ‘support package’ elements of SPARK as online training with (among other themes) toolboxes of resources for virtual facilitation.
If you’ve seen some good examples please let us know by sending us a message on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/transgendervic/
In particular, we’re keen to hear about your favourite digital platforms for communication about TGD wellbeing. Inevitably (and somewhat reluctantly) we’re using Facebook (here at https://www.facebook.com/tgdnbcovidwellbeing/ but we also have been exploring Slack, Zoom and Discord. Your thoughts?
Our aim is to ‘join the dots’ between many of the exciting initiatives we’re seeing underway. How can we help make you all visible to one another (while respecting privacy and the right to retreat).
How can we harness our creativity to spread care and kindness?
The #kindnesspandemic is a great example: