Peace Community: Laura Hesp

Hi my name is Laura Hesp and this is #MyCanada

My father and I always had a very colourful relationship. It declined as I got older. I suspect he just didn’t know how to raise a young lady when he was quite comfortable having drawn pictures and watched cartoons to keep me company. As I got older our relationship became a source of a lot of pain for both of us, because we didn’t know how to be a “father & daughter.” My father was an alcoholic, but I still loved him. He hurt everyone around him indirectly, but I loved him. He didn’t know how to be a father but he showed me he loved me in the capacity in which he could, and I knew that. My father was homeless, it was a source of shame for him and guilt for me. How could he let his daughter see him like this? How could I let my own father sleep on the streets? Last month (March) my father died of very tragic circumstances. Living on the street is something that is so inhumane and unbelievably dangerous and heart-breaking, and no one wants to acknowledge it. The way his death was treated by the police department, coroner and funeral home were absolutely unacceptable. My mother and I were given a box of latex gloves and told we had to clean the motel room he died in. The coroner told me they didn’t bother with an autopsy because it didn’t really matter. They told me my father didn’t matter. My father. We want to throw a sandwich at “these people” and think we’ve solved the problem. One meal helps for the moment, but why did they end up on the street in the first place? That’s what I aimed to show everyone. I’m currently building a non-profit called #YouAreLoved, and it was created to de-stigmatize, humanize and assist the homeless. In the beginning, I went on foot and handed out almost 100 bagged lunches, 100 hot soups, 100+ articles of clothing and blankets. I used my social media to create awareness, to fundraise and to curate donations. Since then, it has snowballed into me building a passionate team of philanthropists from photographers, graphic designers, restaurant owners, government workers and dozens upon dozens of volunteers to help me. Because of the sheer volume of donations from organizations, monetary donations and amount of volunteers, I decided to step it up a notch for the community. I’m currently in the middle of rolling out a 3-step media campaign for awareness, followed by a large community potluck aimed at bringing the city together to break bread with the same people living behind our dumpsters and on our benches. Let’s look in each others eyes, let’s talk about why that’s so uncomfortable for people to do.

My Canada looks like a country where people fearlessly pursue their dreams, because they know that our country is full of opportunity and freedom. My Canada is a place where we acknowledge our painful history, we make amends and we put systems in place to take care of the people we neglected. My Canada is a place where the people who make it what it is, all look different. Where we accept you no matter your history, your race, your religion or your financial status. We care about your well being and My Canada is a place that selflessly gives back to their community in order to see change on huge scales!

Chasing my dream in Canada means I feel safe to do so. I feel free and supported by my country, my province and my community on every level. Chasing my passion means that I found that spark inside me, that drive, that motivation that will not let me sleep on it. Chasing my passion means I don’t even have money to pay rent, but I still wake up every day and grind out my non-profit because I know the difference it is going to make for so many people. Chasing my dreams means taking the uncomfortable step to put yourself in a category that not a lot of people are willing to sacrifice for. It means lonely nights, a lot of anxiety and a complete shift in priorities. It means, at times, not recognizing your friends because your life has shifted from “me” to “they” and you can’t understand why everyone doesn’t feel this way. Chasing my passion means sacrifice, determination and an unrelenting urge inside of me to help people less fortunate than myself.