After 10 years at Santropol Roulant, Kateri will be closing this chapter of her life and moving on in pursuit of new adventures.
As a parting gift, here is her final interview capturing her experience over the last 10 years at the Roulant.
Listen to the full interview below:
1. What does leaving the Roulant mean for you?
“It’s something I think about the most. I have learned so much, grown, and met such amazing people, developed relations, that it is like ending a relationship with my best friend. It is tough, but I had a bit of practice before going on maternity leave. It was devastating. It is as if I found the perfect person for me at that time, and we really grew together. Before going on mat leave, my whole life was defined by me working here. All my energy, projects, ideas were at the Roulant. I am so passionate about this organization and the people who gravitate around that. However, it wasn’t a good personal strategy. Professionally yes, because I invested a lot of time, but it’s not good to keep all your eggs in one basket. My mat leave permitted me to find balance, and it helped me appreciate my time even more here when I came back. It’s like the end of a wonderful chapter for me, incredible and colourful with amazing people. I met thousands of people while I was here.”
2. What is the biggest thing you will miss about the Roulant? What was one of the most memorable moments you’ve had here?
“What I will miss the most about the Roulant, is that you can be completely yourself here. We do not judge people by their appearance, and we want to get to know everyone equally. If you made the effort of coming here, how can we welcome you completely for who you are with your values and challenges and interests. You don’t find that often in other organizations. Even at school, which is a nice learning space, but it’s not as authentic as here. For me who is a mixture of introvert and extrovert, it allowed for space to learn more about myself and accept who I was personally and professionally at the time. I think that most people who enter this place feel the same way. You just feel good, and to be able to express yourself, and to be honest with challenges that you experience. I also love the passion people have. They do not come here because they are obligated, but because of their interests. It is really exceptional, this place is a gang of altruists. Most people are here because they want to give their time and skills.
I learned a lot about the reality of elders. Except for my grandparents and a neighbor, I did not know what it meant growing older and the challenges related to it. The elderly are badasses. To live that long with all the heartbreaks, loss, challenges, and that to know they are still smiling every day, they really are badasses. They have been through life and are still here laughing. They are the real hero.
So many memorable moments. I am fascinated by the daily routine. Even if I have repeated myself a thousand times, ”Hello, welcome to the Roulant”, or talking on the phone, it is always entertaining. I get excited every time I speak with someone, or every time we have a challenge at work and need to work on, or a project, it is just a really cool experience and believe that this is why I have stayed at the Roulant for so long. I appreciate the little and big things. Day to day, as much as events are all fun.”
3. How have you grown/changed over the years at the Roulant? What have you learned? What has the Roulant taught you about yourself? About others?
“I was the type of person who wouldn’t like to argue with people and just accepted things for what they were. But at the Roulant we value everyone’s opinion. If you don’t have a tendency of speaking up, this place really valorizes peoples voices. For me, it taught me how to valorize my own voice and to speak up more, and to eventually become a leader. If I hadn’t come to the Roulant, I would have stayed timid and not speak much, and too shy to do a job at the level of my skills. It was an amazing gift.
I learned so many incredible things. Especially professional skills, such as how a team communicates, what is a governance, how to manage projects, programs, and budgets. If you have a little bit of interest at the Roulant, you can learn whatever you want. I had this curioustiy to learn more and join different workshops. There is really this liberty to learn anything you want. I became the person I wanted to become. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity in a more hierarchical society. I have always been raised to listen to the rules, but here we build the rules together and value every opinion to build something even better.”
4. How has the organization changed since you started? A few examples…
“When I first started, we were at a different location. We were a much smaller organization in 2008, and we were a small team. The gardens were beginning to start, there was no farm, no building, no collective apart from Santrovelo. It was the birth of lots of committees, and I saw the evolution of this. The moving was so significant in the story of the Roulant. It was the most beautiful moving I had ever been a part of, we turned it into a celebration. All the volunteers came to help us. We walked by foot and started a parade playing instrument and wore costumes/wigs. It was like a right of passage marked by the community. It was so beautiful. When we got here we had to grow really quickly, which was quite difficult, but it was also a time where we learned a lot. The organization grew from an adolescent to a young adult, having more responsibilities, such as being the owner of a building, buying cars, having a green rooftop. The staff also tripled, which was also a learning curve. Developing practices more complex, and having more mentors to help interns. The programs developed which meant even more volunteers came to help us out. The Roulant really became one of the best organizations that manage volunteers in Montreal. We really are experts, because we train people, welcome them, and receive their feedback.
Our governance is also really kick ass. We’re really one of the only organizations that has elections because there are lots of people who apply to become a member.
I saw a lot of evolution in the volunteers too. It used to be much more young students from McGill, and then from high schools coming for their international programs. Now we see many people who have retired or are in a period of transition to fine-tune their research and values. There were also a lot of people who suffered burnouts, and this was a way for them to reintegrate themselves in society slowly.
Also, the client process has changed quite a bit. There weren’t so many restrictions before. We’ve noticed a change in peoples food restrictions as well as issues they are facing. There has also been a change in the types of clients we receive, such as people who have physical handicaps or mental issues, which started happening in the last couple of years. Perhaps there is less support for them, and the Roulant became a reference for them.”
5. What surprised you most? What frustrated you most?
“The people surprised me most, and how generous everyone has been. Also their stories are so impressive. Some people have a million other things going on and are still implicating themselves here. It is really incredible. They really are champions in the shadow.
So many things frustrate me. This place is such a safe space, and it frustrates me that it isn’t like this everywhere. That we still live in a society with so much judgement and unwillingness to understand each other and not sharing. There is also always that challenge of receiving financial support when your an NGO and to be in competition with other organizations for the same grant, which is really weird. Were all trying to help each other, but this is how the society works.”
6. Is there anything you would do differently?
I have been thinking about this. I wish I would have pursued my personal development earlier. This place is a youth training organization that offers many opportunities. I have done lots of stuff, but I really wish I would have done more. You can be so inspired by all these different conferences. I would have also liked to go back to school, because it is offered to us, but we often forget to do so. I would have had a PhD in something if I had! I do have a PhD on the Roulant however.”
7. Is there anything you would like to share with the community?
“This is a challenge for me to regroup all my thoughts, but it is really a message full of gratitude, and a huge thank you to everyone I met through the Roulant, and the networks of the Roulant, our clients, volunteers and donors. Every encounter has been significant and has brought me something. I hope that this movement continues to grow, I would like to see little Roulant’s everywhere, where people can go and feel safe and share, but it must come from grassroots and our initiative. When I first started at the Roulant, my gratitude muscle really started to develop. If I saw someone struggle in the past, I would have kept walking, but now I stop and help as much as possible. Sharing with others and being open is something to be worked on, which can be challenging because we need to step out of our comfort zone, but we learn so much more from the contact with others. Take care of one another.
8. Where do you see yourself in 15 years?
“I wish to keep everything that I learned here and continue to spread it on to others and do good wherever I am. I really want to keep this positive leadership quality in society. I really think I’ve learned transferable skills, and to keep that fire for as long as I live. I want to be a really active elderly person and to receive the Meals-on-Wheels services too. The community will always be a part of me. I would also love to come back and do volunteer work with my kids in 15 years. I can’t wait to see what this place will look like in 15 years as well. It is such a thriller, and I have confidence that the Roulant will continue to develop positively.