Fusion Annapolis Valley event a success: organizers

John Decoste jdecoste@kingscountynews.ca
Published on May 1, 2014

Morgan Wheeldon during the focus discussion at the Fusion Annapolis Valley launch in Kentville. - John DeCoste, www.kingscountynews.ca

John DeCoste

The launch of Fusion Annapolis Valley, held recently in Kentville, is being termed a success, with between 30 and 35 people attending the launch.

Fusion is a vehicle through which young adults can work together to build a community network, mentor others and get directly involved in activities to improve their prospects of employment and social and professional engagement.

“I’m feeling good about this,” organizer Morgan Wheeldon said after the event. “There was good dialogue. The what and the how are the next step.”

The idea of starting a Fusion group here in Kings County was inspired by the success of existing groups in Halifax, Saint John, New Brunswick and Bangor, Maine.

Marsha Andrews, the chair of Fusion Halifax, told those in attendance their group is now seven years old. They now have over 2,500 members.

“(Fusion Halifax) started as an organization by and for people between 20 and 40, with the purpose of connecting, engaging, and inspiring young people, as well as community partners, to make Halifax a better place to live, work and play,” said Andrews, an Acadia graduate who used to work in the Valley.

“We’re here to derive positive change, and to get involved in the community we’re living in.”

The Fusion Halifax group, she said, encourages its members to become part of action teams, dedicated to such topics as urban development, immigration and diversity, entrepreneurship, arts and culture, health and wellness and sustainability.

“Volunteers sit on each action team,” she said. “It’s where a lot of the ‘grass roots’ ideas are born.”

Andrews now works for Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

“Fusion has provided me with a lot of opportunities,” she said, “not only the job I have now, but the experience I needed to make a difference in my job.”

Andrews is committed to expanding Fusion into other areas of Nova Scotia. In response to the number of young people forced to leave the province in search of work, she feels, “it’s very important we all come together to make Nova Scotia a place where young people are able to stay and make their lives here.”

The Kentville launch brought together young – and some not-so-young – professionals from a range of walks of life.

“I definitely think there’s a need for engaging young people more in community-based discussions,” Colby Clarke said prior to the meeting.

“I’m looking to hear there are young people here who are as interested in being engaged as I am. I want this to be a beginning, not just a ‘one-of’.”

Rob Stathakis, another young professional working in the area, agreed. As a recent university graduate, he said, “I’m familiar with some of the challenges we’ll be talking about. I’m finishing a Masters right now, so I’ll be back in the workforce shortly, in a different occupation. I’d like to find out what’s available.”

The evening’s discussion touched on a number of areas that a Valley Fusion group might focus on and embrace. Many speakers touched on the fact that one of the major issues facing today’s young people is that securing a job, much less a stable income, can be a challenge, especially here in Nova Scotia. Starting a small business has its own challenges, particularly in uncertain economic times.

“We wanted people to come out and say what they thought,” Wheeldon said. “We absolutely had engagement.  If anything, it ran overtime because of what so many people had to offer.”

There appeared to be consensus that there was enough interest in pursuing a Fusion group in this area, but Wheeldon said there are no easy answers about where they go from here.

“This conversation puts the ball in the right court,” he said. “The sooner we can have definite ‘asks’, the sooner we can achieve something.”