Angelika Matson stood before a stranger’s home, on a doormat that literally read, “Go Away,” and knocked anyway. She was accompanied by Howard Lawrence and Danny Hoyt, key members of Abundant Communities Initiative, a multi-community project connecting neighbours with the hope of creating a more supportive and inclusive neighbourhood on a person-to-person basis. Turning around would defeat the purpose.
She says, “Even a single connection feels like a triumph.” It’s a sentiment confirmed the moment a smiling face appeared from behind the door, and repeated each time she meets another Oliver neighbour.
Matson is one of Oliver’s designated Neighbourhood Connectors working diligently to, in her words, “link the people who need help with the people who can give it.” As a Connector, she tries to build ongoing relations with people all around the community and encourages them to independently reach out to other neighbours in their buildings. Matson believes it’s the most effective way she can inspire social wellbeing: the more connectors, the more social connections. That’s how Lawrence’s vision for ACI began, in 2013, with an idea for promoting community growth one knock at a time.
“It combats isolation in the midst of a big city,” says Matson, a former Red Deer resident and a social media manager. She’s also a mental health advocate who promotes positive body image and mental health awareness on YouTube.
In 2013, she shared her experiences of being bullied with the One Project to create #EraseBullying, an interactive art campaign that partnered with Lush Cosmetics to encourage bullying victims to speak up. But Matson, who volunteers for the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton and sits on the City of Edmonton’s Youth Council, also knows the value of face-to-face interaction to improving personal well-being. She’s witnessed it in herself. And if it can change a person, it can change a city, she says.
Angelika’s hopeful that neighbours young and old will rise to the challenge and “open their door to a stranger.” They could become a good friend. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Are you passionate about community? Become a Neighbourhood Connector for your area. Email for more information.