"Guelph, the place you try to get your friends to move to."
One of the amazing opportunities that arises from having a small business is that you get to not only meet amazing people, but see them in action changing their community. We feel privileged that we've been able to know Matt, a high school teacher in Guelph. With a passion for civic engagement, Matt is continuously looking for ways to increase the knowledge and involvement of his students in their community. For the past few years, we've gone in to chat with his World Issues students to chat about living a sweatshop-free lifestyle. As we all move into the Fall and know a student or two, we hope Matt can inspire you to educate yourselves and those young around you about their community.
We are incredibly inspired by the topics you cover in your World Issues class at Centennial. Why do you think it's important to engage students in global issues, like understanding where their clothes are made?
We live in a very globalized world that has allowed for many incredible advancements in technology, medicine, quality of life, and overall luxury in our lives. However, much of that luxury comes at a cost, a cost that is rarely seen or felt by the Western world. Those costs are not found on the price tag; rather, in weak human rights, pitiful wages, and our environment. I think for students and even most adults, there is a growing disconnect between the things we buy and where they came from: whether it's clothes, food, electronics, etc. We are not very self-sufficient anymore and my goal in my class is not to turn students away from consumerism or into nomadic survivalists that knits their own clothes and hunts their food, but simply make those connections so they can't say, "Oh I didn't know.." when the next Rana Plaza happens. I want to show them that there are other ways than the status quo. One of my favourite quotations is from the author Raj Patel: "We know the cost of everything but the value of nothing."
If you could give Guelph the perfect slogan... What would it be?
Guelph: the place you try to get your friends to move to.
Why/what do you love about being involved in Guelph?
I love that there is always something happening. I grew up in a much larger city than Guelph and I feel like there was not even a quarter of the events, lectures, and festivals that go on in Guelph. Guelphites just love to be out doing stuff with other Guelphites. It's easy to be involved and easy to keep learning new things.
If you could give yourself advice for when you first started working in your community, what would you tell yourself?
Take advantage of all that Guelph has to offer. Use the city as your greatest teaching tool. It's like that old teaching adage on collaboration, "the smartest person in the room is the room." Well, the smartest person in the city is the City (Guelph, of course).