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Members of the Paper Doll Project of the Child Wellbeing Initiative rally outside the Alberta legislature.

Paper vigil

Tackling poverty with friends

By Carolyn Pogue

When I was small, I had imaginary friends: Mrs. Buckets and Mrs. Peabody, two dear old ladies. (Old then; likely my age now.) My grandniece, five years old, also has an imaginary friend, a man. She says her friend Coco is “as old as pine cones.”

I wonder if imaginary friends are actually guardian angels. I’ve met a woman who was abused as a child and imagined a beautiful Chinese lady who gave her comfort. In adulthood, the woman was startled to see a statue of that same lady on a visit to Chinatown. The lady was the ancient goddess Kwan Yin, known as a protector of children.

Violet Flowers is another imaginary friend. She appeared to me when I was working at the Canmore Leader newspaper in the Rocky Mountains. As a fiction writer, I live with imaginary people often. They’ve inhabited the present, biblical times, and in the case of my novels, the 1890s. I dwell with them for weeks, months or however long it takes to finish the work. But Violet Flowers keeps coming back. Violet penned an opinion column in the late 1980s, then retired to Gopher Gulch. She was hauled out of retirement in 1999 by her editor, Willard T., to write about travelling with the moderator of the United Church, Bill Phipps. In 2000, she retired again. Now she’s back.

I had planned this blog to be about remembering the Montreal massacre. I wanted to write about the need to stay vigilant about violence in Canada, and how guns, war toys and violent video games alarm me. But Violet said, “Poverty is violence, too.” Violet’s motto, like peace activist Kay Macpherson’s, is “When in doubt, do both.” Of course.

I have written here about the Paper Doll Project of the Child Wellbeing Initiative, started by Alberta women of the United Church. The goal of the project was to raise awareness about child poverty, and we wanted to cut one paper doll for each of the 70,000-plus impoverished Alberta children. (We received more than 100,000 dolls.) The project connected us with others concerned about child poverty, including the Canadian Federation of University Women, teachers and Girl Guides.

On Nov. 20, we took the paper dolls to the Alberta legislature to show our leaders what that number looks like. We rallied on the legislature steps and spoke at two press conferences. And we learned that the number of children in poverty in Alberta is now 91,000.

Liberal and NDP members of the legislative assembly addressed us, and Human Services Minister Dave Hancock invited us into his office to talk about our concerns. We were introduced in the house. Our hope is that people will continue to work with us to raise the alarm about this unnecessary tragedy. Violet Flowers has weighed in with her report on YouTube.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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