›› Chantille Viaud

When I was in London a couple of years ago, I dragged my friend all the way across town because I wanted to see the place that had started what is now an ­international movement. It’s called Toynbee Hall, it’s in East London, and it was the world’s first neighbourhood house, a place that was founded in the 1880’s to build ­community and tackle social challenges. Whether they’re called a neighbourhood house, a settlement house, a community centre, or a neighbourhood resource group, ­neighbourhood houses are the living room and the heart of a community.

I’ve worked at a few different neighbourhood houses now, and though all ­communities are unique, the houses where I’ve worked have shared a common vision: to bring people together, to build bridges, and to create spaces where everyone feels included and where people feel they belong, no matter who they are. These spaces are unique and wonderful and are part of what it takes to create a more just world and stronger community.

This is why I am so excited to be the new Executive Director at Fernwood NRG, a neighbourhood house in the heart of my favourite community in Victoria.

My son and I moved to Victoria just over a year ago to live with my partner and his son. When I asked my seven-year-old stepson what he loves about Fernwood, he said “I love the amazing pizza, also there’s a great park that we play in, and a few times I’ve seen a rat—I have!” It’s a pretty stellar endorsement.

It goes without saying that Fernwood is amazing. I am grateful to Lee for pulling together such an amazing team and leaving such a significant legacy.

I am excited to start working together, to find the strength in our diversity and to build an even more amazing community.

In true neighbourhood house style, my door is always open and I hope you drop by to say hi and tell me what your hopes and dreams are for the future of Fernwood.