By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Dressed in a black t-shirt in memory of Apple founder Steve Jobs, motivational speaker and humanitarian Ian Hill took to the stage Thursday – fittingly enough – with a message of change: changing the world by changing the community; changing the community by changing the community member; changing the community member by changing the way that person looks at themselves and the world around them.
From an early-morning breakfast meeting with local business leaders to a gathering of local volunteer organizations, Hill spent the morning bringing his message of the power one individual can have to effect change in a community group or a community at large. Central to that mission is Hill’s fundamental belief that “to whom much is given, much is required.” It is something the Oshawa-based humanitarian and motivational speaker has a great deal of experience with. Hill has been named Humanitarian of the Year by The National Council for Community and Justice and The Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, and is part of an organization that helps provide playgrounds where none exist.
But for Hill, giving back to the community is more than writing a cheque; it’s giving of time, talent and treasure with the realization that organizations seeking volunteers today need to adapt to a changing world that is user driven as opposed to the obligatory volunteerism of years gone by.
A large part of Hill’s message, and one that formed part of every presentation was the need to build the citizens of tomorrow. “Every community I’ve gone to has a plan for the sewer, and where the sewers going to be for the next 20 years,” Hill told his audience Thursday morning. “They’ve got a plan for the roads and the buildings. They’ve even got a plan for the economic development and sustainability. They’ve got books of plans. Very rarely do I come across one that has a plan for the people who will drive on those roads, who will work in those buildings, and use those sewers.”
Hill went on to say history has shown communities who align their infrastructure plans with people plans thrive; those who do not usually don’t. Using the example of economic development, Hill said it is important to teach students the skills that will match the economic direction of a community 15 years down the road. The motivational speaker said it is the business owners’ role to demand those skills and attributes are taught along the path.
No place for inaction
But Hill believes the quest for change is incumbent on all citizens and is something that takes action rather than talk. In Hill’s view there is little place for people to sit idly by because those who would undermine the work of a community and its youth are not sitting idly by. “As we speak right now there is a four-year-old somewhere in Morinville desperately hoping that something will improve,” Hill said. “As we speak right now somewhere in a 200 kilometre radius there is a bad man making crystal methamphetamine. And he wants to sell it on this campus. As we speak right now somewhere in a 300 kilometre radius there is a pedophile trying to figure out new innovative and creative ways to snatch my daughter. “ It was a message Hill reiterated to his audience Thursday night at a celebration of Morinville’s youth.
While Hill argues there is no place for neutrality in building a better community, participants in Thursday’s sessions were not neutral in discussing what they took away from the sessions.
“I think it was very well worth four or five hours of my time,” said long-time community volunteer Murray Knight who attended both morning sessions. “Ian brought a lot of things to the forefront that we probably know things about and expanded on some things that we’ve thought about. For me personally, it gave me some insight into how to attack the world and go forward with things I’d like to see in our [historical] group and other groups that I’m involved with.”
Knight said his biggest take away from the two sessions was a message of the importance of positive thinking and truthfulness. “We’re here to build a better community,” Knight said of those who came out Thursday morning. “We’ve got to be a strong community. To be a strong community all the user groups and all the volunteer groups need to eventually work as one and share ideas. It’s all for one and one for all for the good of the community.”
For Ruthann Weeks, who has been working with the Town of Morinville on their youth strategy, Hill’s presentation was well received.
“I think Ian Hill is a real visionary,” Weeks said. “He’s got some really important ideas about holistically approaching community development instead of just looking at one piece at a time.”
Weeks was particularly impressed with Hill’s comments about engaging youth as the leaders of tomorrow, a theme that ran through all Hill’s presentations Thursday regardless of the audience he was speaking to. “I don’t think people think about that,” she said. “They think about having facilities in place down the road, but they don’t think about who’s going to use those facilities or who’s going to benefit from using them and who’s actually going to get the job done.”
For Weeks, the take away from the morning sessions was Hill’s message of relationships. “It always comes down to relationships,” she said. “I find whatever we are trying to accomplish comes down to relationships. It’s building relationships with the people that are doers – and having doers and not just people who give lip service to things. At the end of the day, people have to be doers and not just wanters. They can’t just want to do something. They have to actually step up and commit themselves to making change.”
Hill spent the afternoon meeting with youth leaders and students of influence from Morinville Community High School and Georges H. Primeau Middle School. One Morinville student and community volunteer who was part of that session is Travis Loseth who said he found Hill’s presentation to be inspiring. “It got me thinking what I can do in the community to change and how I can use my personal talents and gifts towards the good of the community,” Loseth said, noting the presentation raised awareness of his own uniqueness and how that could help. “Out of the 70 billion who have lived on this planet, I’m the only one of me, and there’s no one else like me. It’s putting my own gifts and experiences and talents into the community.”
But if Hill taught Morinville youth they are all unique, the speaker also learned they are very much the same, at least in one respect – their desire to make their community a better place.
“I had an opportunity to spend some time with 120 of your kids,” Hill told adults who attended Thursday night’s youth celebration. “It was a phenomenal experience. The younger kids – I couldn’t believe the insight and the wisdom that was coming out of their mouths. We were talking about very detailed sophisticated themes, and they were with me every step of the way. Then when I met with the older kids, I was blown away by the burden of their heart for their fellow man, and how desperately they wanted to do something to make the world a better place.”
Ian Hill’s presentations wrapped up Thursday night with a celebration of youth. Below is a gallery of photos from the event. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-sized image, then use mouse wheel or arrow keys to navigate the gallery.