Vision Partner Definition
Vision Partners participate as full members of the Board of Directors undertaking responsibilities for policy-making and management. They commit to:
- Make an initial financial contribution to indicate serious intent and to raise funds annually for the operations of Five Oaks
- Recruit volunteers to serve on the Board and working groups related to program, site planning and maintenance, fund raising
- Participate in planning and leading interfaith/intercultural events
- Work together to obtain grants for programs, research, site development
- Take responsibility for their own programming
The advantages for Vision Partners are:
- Having a safe and sacred place that a community can call its own
- Connecting faith and traditions to care of the earth on beautiful land, in lush forest beside running water
- Being a participating member of one of the first interfaith/intercultural residential centres in Canada and by doing so, contribute to a model of interfaith/ intercultural understanding and action for society today
- Participating in an opportunity to strengthen each other
- Knowing that time is reserved for their own programs and events
• Sharing in promotion of events through website and newsletter
- Having a say in how the site is used and developed
Current Vision Partners
Rhonda Johns—Five Oaks Board member, attendee at Native Spirituality retreats and Program Coordinator of Nations Uniting on the Six Nations reserve—had a dream. In her work, she engaged with a lot of seniors, many of them residential school survivors, and with youth who don’t know who they are and where they belong. Observing this intergenerational dynamic, she realized that many on the reserve needed to experience healing. She asked herself what she could do. The answer that came was to create a healing centre in partnership with Six Nations and Five Oaks, so that those who feel lost can experience a place where they belong, where they can be close to the water and on the land with all that nature offers. She sees Five Oaks as a place where elders can teach their traditions to youth and help them discover their own spirituality. She wanted to offer this dream based on her listening to community people to find out what they want and what they would want a healing centre to provide.
A presentation of the partnership proposal was made to the February 21st, 2017 Six Nations Council Meeting. At the March 21st meeting of Council, the Six Nations Elected Council supported a partnership with Five Oaks for one year and made a $50,000 financial commitment. This relationship continues. Rhonda Johns serves as a member of the Five Oaks Board of Directors. Renee Thomas-Hill has also participated. Other members of the community are being approached to join the Board. Numerous Six Nations related programs are now held at Five Oaks .A purification lodge will be constructed in 2019.
United Church of Canada
Although the United Church no longer provides operating funds for Education and Retreat Centres, the Centres are still able to access funds for programming that support the mission of the denomination. Region 9 in the new structure of the United Church is willing to have its Executive Secretary serve as an ex officio member of the Board and to maintain oversight of the Centre on behalf of other regions.
The news that Five Oaks might close reached Kofi Hope, Executive Director for Careers Education Empowerment for Young Black Professionals. As a United Church youth, he attended events at Five Oaks. He later led events at the Centre. Shocked at this news, he contacted friends to explore ways to “save” Five Oaks, including former Director Mardi Tindale and Ausma Malik, who had led a national youth leadership training event at Five Oaks with Kofi.
Ausma and her brother Abdul-Rehman felt a call to help Five Oaks continue to do its important work. Their view was:
we all are less if Five Oaks were gone; we all benefit when we strengthen each other’s community of faith and act for peace and justice and care of the earth together.
Abdul-Rehman and Ausma committed to work with the Muslim philanthropic community to raise funds to show their commitment to being partners with Five Oaks Centre. They expressed the conviction that in these times, there needs to be a place like Five Oaks where Muslim groups can feel safe; where they belong; where they are accepted. They strongly support the concept of an interfaith/intercultural centre where people of faith or no faith can explore the depths of each other’s faith and traditions to find the wisdom to meet the challenges of life today. In the process, such dialogue will enrich each tradition. The fact that Five Oaks is on the sacred ground of the Six Nations people and that Six Nations will also be a partner in the life of the Centre was very appealing.
Mahmoud Haddera, former imam of the Mosque in St. John’s and a Professor of Engineering at Memorial University, who now resides in London, Ontario is still involved in interfaith work. He was invited to be part of a conversation about the future of Five Oaks. He willingly contacted Belal Tassi of the London branch of the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) and Omar Hamam. They, along with Imam Abu Noman Tarek of Brantford, visited Five Oaks and committed to pursuing partnership. Some of their youth groups had already used Five Oaks for their own events. This London based community has provided moral support and sound advice as well as material support especially in establishing an interfaith prayer room.