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Kitchener Resident Chris Brown is a Toastmaster Member Making a Difference
The Members Making A Difference Award is awarded to a District 86 Toastmaster member who volunteer their Toastmasters communication and leadership skills to better the lives of those in their community in a significant and notable way
By: District 86 Toastmasters
Chris Brown joined Toastmasters in January 2014 and is currently just a few months away from earning his Distinguished Toastmaster designation. When asked "why" he joined, he said "I knew I was a good communicator already, but I knew there was still lots of room for improvement. I wanted to close those gaps. I'm a firm believer in adding value to others everywhere I go. Improving my communication and leadership skills has allowed me to be even more effective with that, both in my professional and volunteer work."
In the heart of downtown Kitchener is a small agency making a big impact: Community Justice Initiatives (CJI) popularized the Restorative Justice movement which has spread around the world. It aims to bring healing to communities by connecting perpetrators of crimes with both their victims and their community so all can heal collectively.
Chris began volunteering with Community Justice Initiatives in 2010, working within their Revive Program which focuses on supporting people affected by sexual trauma, including survivors and also people who have committed sexual offenses. Chris has held various volunteer roles, co-facilitating peer support groups for men who have committed offenses (both pre-sentence and after they've left institutions like Ontario Correctional Institute, and other provincial or federal correctional institutions)
When asked about how Toastmasters has impacted his volunteer work, he had this to say: "Peer support is as much about effective listening and empathy as it is about speaking. Being comfortable as a communicator lets me listen actively and respond to impromptu questions or situations that may arise. Teaching classes from whiteboards or from workbooks require varied skills, and I find group participants have an even better learning experience since I've been working on my communication skills. Even more, we always work with a co-facilitator, and developing my leadership skills has helped me and my co-facilitators work even more effectively together as we support our group members."
"I'm often asked: 'Why do you do this work? Why work with these people?'. It's a loaded question of course, as CJI's clients are a very misunderstood population. The average citizen thinks offenders have no remorse for their wrongdoing … and yet at CJI we meet people all the time who know what they've done is wrong and don't want to commit future offenses. Our work directly reduces recidivism, which in turn contributes to greater community safety.
I'm acutely aware that we all make mistakes in life. Some of them more 'epic' than others. Some with more far-reaching consequences than others. But at the end of it all, we're all Human. Despite your mistakes, my mistakes, their mistakes, we're all needing of love and acceptance and being treated with dignity and respect regardless of our shortcomings. Every year I witness amazing transformations as I walk with people along some part of their journey to healing. The resilience of the human spirit is amazing. It's very rewarding work. I usually answer this question by quoting from the lyrics of a song by Tenth Avenue North, which says: 'You are more than the choices that you make. You are more than the sum of your past mistakes. You are more than the problems you create.' I think we all need to hear and personalize that for ourselves. I dream of the day when I can get this message to more people. For my part, I try to embody that message every day. It's my way of 'being the change I want to see in the world.'"
About Toastmasters District 86
Toastmasters District 86 represents the heartland of Ontario comprising of over 235 community and corporate clubs, with over 5,000 members, from Timmins in the north to Welland in the south, from Sarnia in the west to Markham in the east - and all communities in between - except Toronto. To learn more about District 86 please visit: http://www.toastmasters86.org/
About Toastmasters International
Toastmasters International is a worldwide non-profit educational organization that empowers individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organization's membership exceeds 345,000 in more than 15,900 clubs in 142 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators and leaders. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit toastmasters.org. Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.
Dennis Bartel - Public Relations Manager
District 86 Toastmasters 2016 - 2017