Our Favourite Day of the Year: Hope in Shadows Awards Ceremony 2019

Our Favourite Day of the Year: Hope in Shadows Awards Ceremony 2019

Group photo at the Awards Ceremony

This week I had the pleasure of attending my first Hope in Shadows awards ceremony held by Megaphone Magazine for their 2019 calendar. I am fairly new in Vancouver and this is my first week as a Project Manager at Affinity Bridge, so I didn’t really know what to expect when our CEO Mack Hardy invited me to join him. As a sponsor of the calendar, we were invited to attend and present an award.  

Like me, you have probably seen the Megaphone Magazine being sold for a couple of dollars in the streets of Vancouver and Victoria. It is a monthly publication developed by professional designers and journalists that explores different topics related to politics, culture, independent arts and social justice. The magazine is sold by different vendors that you can easily recognize because of the distinctive red vest they wear while they are working.  The vendors are members of our community who are working to overcome issues such as poverty and homelessness due to mental health issues, addiction and/or other personal issues. But that isn’t at all what defines the Megaphone magazine vendors. I had the opportunity to learn that during the Hope in Shadows ceremony.

Every year Megaphone Magazine runs a photography contest where the vendors are given disposable film cameras and are invited to take photos of their communities to capture places and people that inspire them. They can then submit their photos for a chance to be featured in the beautiful Hope in Shadows annual calendar. These can be acquired from the vendors themselves in the streets. A community panel selects 30 finalist photos out of the total received that are later narrowed down to the 13 photos featured on the calendar through community votes and panel collaboration. Once the final photos have been selected, an event is held with the community to announce the winners! Each month of the calendar is sponsored by a different local business. The sponsor gets to announce the winner, and both the sponsor and the winning photographer have the opportunity to address the audience and describe what this means to them.

An Annual Gathering for a Community Full of Life

This year’s theme for the contest was Spirit and Resilience. This theme was felt throughout the ceremony as stories of the community supporting each other to overcome their challenges were shared.

Affinity Bridge on stage with Peter Thompson
Mack Hardy, CEO of Affinity Bridge, on stage with Peter Thompson, author of the winning photo for the month of August on the Hope in Shadows calendar.

We arrived early to the venue at 312 Main St. so that we could take some good shots of the vendors and their sponsors. One of the first things I noticed was the very tender and friendly atmosphere in the whole room— it was a warmth I could feel immediately. The vendors seemed very close to each other as they chitchatted before the presentation. They also seemed to have known most of the sponsors for years. It felt like a very tight-knit community, which is something I haven’t really found easily here in Vancouver during my first year in this city. I thought it couldn’t get any better, so I just took a muffin, sat down and started to prepare some tweets, ready to enjoy the feel of the morning and get back to the office afterward.

I wasn't totally prepared for the impact that the stories of these brave people would have on me. The diverse representation of presenters showed me the variety of reasons for struggle within our city. Special prominence was given to the First Nations people, lands, identities and cultures, and the distinctive challenges they face. So many compelling stories were honestly and passionately shared by the authors of the photos as they were called to the stage to pick up their awards and receive their recognition.

As their voices spread through the room, their stories filled my heart and I just surrendered myself into the wave of emotions that shaped the ceremony. I cried and laughed with them as they shared their testimonies about how their lives had changed by becoming Megaphone’s vendors, what their struggles were and what their photos meant.

Overcoming Social Challenges Together

Most of the photos featured another person within their community— a close somebody who inspired them with their attitude, their daily habits or just their presence. This struck me deeply and taught me a meaningful lesson: this was not just a photo contest or fundraiser. This is a public platform that allows these community members to be heard and share their stories. It is a means to express the way they live their lives and what their daily experience, struggles and achievements feel like. It is a window to show the world their reality out of the narrow walls of the homelessness stigma and the poverty social borders. They were given this great platform and they chose to bring in their friends,  families, neighbors and make them a part of it too. This event created space for human beings and their life stories in a world that often shuts them out. They brought the community in because that’s what being resilient is: the desire to reach out and say, "We can’t make it on our own, let’s do it together."

Front cover of the 2019 calendar
You can get your calendar from a Megaphone street vendor today and support this meaningful project.

I then truly understood the meaning and importance of our sponsorship. Their inspiring attitude of self-improvement and mutual support was mind-blowing. It clearly reflected a will to improve their situation and be part of something positive and beautiful. A desire to be part of a community where they feel they belong and can discover their true value as both people and as a community. They can then share this journey to inspire others.

These are the values that drive our work at Affinity Bridge. We are proud to be part of an ecosystem of organizations that create solutions and tools to help overcome the challenges we face as a society. This is a part of our DNA. These values push and direct us to support not only the technology we deliver but also our participation in initiatives like Hope in Shadows.

And we want to encourage you to be a part of it too! This calendar is a connection with an amazing local community and a very easy way to support them. You can learn everything about the project here, and you can get the 2019 calendar in the streets of Vancouver and Victoria from the vendors or order it online here. Don’t miss the chance to do it! It is already an annual must for us.