KWIC is connecting for change in Peterborough, around the world
The Kawartha World Issues Centre is the amazing little group that has fostered many progressive projects over 30 years in our city: GreenUP, Teaching Outside the Box, Kawartha Food Share, ReFrame Film Festival and TRACKS for Indigenous youth. These are organizations that shape our values.
I have lived in Peterborough for 50 years, and for 30 of those years I have had a small hand in, and watched with admiration of, the development of a group started by the community and then enlarged to include the university.
It is today a highly influential, dynamic, youth-led resource which shapes what we stand for as a city and whom we elect to office. And with one and a half staff. The Kawartha World Issues Centre grew, as healthy movements do, organically. In the early 1980s, a few people interested in international affairs and in Canada’s role around the world, who were operating as volunteers in such groups as Oxfam and the International Development Education Program at Fleming, merged their small budgets and their person-power.
Some names are still active 30 years on: Alan and Linda Slavin, Don Quarrie and Stephanie Benn, for example. “It was a caring, connected, joyful socialjustice community,” says Debra Morales, who wrote a 44-page history of KWIC in 2004.
The group moved from Fleming College to 106 Murray St. in 1998, making it more accessible to downtown. The late Jim Anderson and teacher Don Quarrie guaranteed the mortgage for the space.
In that period, the Canadian government was supporting global education centres across the country. In spite of their achievements helping Canadians learn accurately about the world and take action to better it, the federal government withdrew support. Peterborough’s is the last Ontario one operating.
From its current home on the Trent campus in the Science Complex building, KWIC operates as a nonprofit, run by an active board of directors. It benefits from the passion and knowledge of its longtime executive director, Julie Cosgrove, and commitment from many sectors.
Offering resources of all kinds, hosted by enthusiastic students, KWIC is a hub for students and community members. It networks with high schools, community groups, service clubs and graduate students.
Its budget is currently around $200,000. Three-quarters of this amount comes from grants and donations. The other quarter comes, to their eternal credit, from the 8,000 Trent students who give at the time of tuition payment about $3 per semester.
To everyone’s consternation, the provincial government’s “Student Choice” initiative (a Doug Ford plan) enabled students to opt out of these fees. In a time of cuts to student loans and grants, there is increased pressure on students to find savings anywhere they can.
(Stop the press: this policy was just denied by an Ontario court.)
KWIC’s creative energy was demonstrated again in October with a session led by popular educator and unconventional academic Bayo Akolomafe, a Nigerian living in India who is globally renowned for his fresh take on the global crisis, civic action and change.
His workshop at the Mount drew 90 students, teachers, members of Indigenous communities and NGO leaders in a remarkable encounter across generations, locations and ways of life.
It was another KWIC success: courage and ingenuity in service of community and change.