What COVID-19 has taught us about long-term care
Building an equal future for women in Atlantic Canada
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
SPECIAL REPORT: Facets of family violence
Have you tried the SaltWire News app?
UPDATED: COVID-19 news and numbers
Continuing coverage: Mass shooting in Nova Scotia
What's working for businesses in 2021?
'I just love being in the community — I think it recharges me a lot'
If you needed to encapsulate a person in only two words, “community champion” would describe Meghan Hollett.
She’s the newly-elected chair of Happy City St. John’s, a non-profit that aims to inform, encourage and facilitate civic dialogue in the province’s capital.
And on that front, Hollett never stops. It’s not unusual to see her canvassing her neighbourhood with information about an event or issue.
“All the people that we’re surrounded with in the run of a day have lots of great ideas. They might just need an outlet for those ideas. I think Happy City is fortunate to hold space to bring together ideas,” she said.
Outside of her role at Happy City, Hollett is also the programs coordinator at Conservation Corps Newfoundland and Labrador; director of the St. John’s Women’s Ultimate Recreational League; and director at Ordinary Spokes, a non-profit cyclist resource centre.
“I just love being in the community — I think it recharges me a lot,” Hollett told The Telegram.
She credits her parents and her former work as a youth engagement officer at the Association for New Canadians for teaching her the importance of making community connections, and continually “adding to the crowd,” as she puts it.
Learn more about the civic-minded organizer in this week’s 20 Questions.
Juanita Mercer reports on municipal issues in St. John’s.
1. What is your full name?
Meghan Roberta Hollett.
2. Where and when were you born?
St. John’s in 1986.
3. Where do you live today?
On the cusp of downtown St. John’s.
4. What’s your favourite place in the world?
Anywhere amongst the trees! I’m fortunate to live in a neighbourhood with plenty of trees. But a unique favourite is Slovenský raj, a large national park in Slovakia — home to ice caves, waterfalls, endless hiking trails and gorges.
5. Who do you follow on social media?
I use social media to stay politically informed, broaden my understanding of other perspectives and cultures, and amplify less heard voices. In addition to local and international journalists, I follow many people with lived experience outside my current reality: people with disabilities, Indigenous voices in our province and beyond, and LGBTQIA2+ voices. I also follow a lot of advocates for environmental justice, urban and rural space-making/redesign, and feminist leaders. Lots of female politicians and unrepresented folks in government at all levels who ignite change.
6. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I speak Spanish and spent years living in Latin America after I finished a university program at the Universidad de la Habana (in Cuba).
7. What’s been your favourite year and why?
In 2014, I moved back to Newfoundland and Labrador after being a boomerang resident for years, bouncing from place to place on short work contracts. I was fortunate to land some meaningful jobs in St. John’s that helped make it possible to stay.
8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
It’s rare that I’ll recognize anything I’m doing as challenging until later. I have a tendency to dig in, then come up for air later. Some of the hardest work I’ve had to do is navigate broken systems. Sometimes these systems are unintentionally ill-informed, and I try my best to bring a different perspective to light. It can be an uphill, slow-moving battle, but when I surround myself with good people, I maintain hope and keep my head down, taking little steps towards positive outcomes.
9. Can you describe one experience that changed your life?
During the Christmas holiday season of 2015, St. John’s saw the arrival of 100-plus Syrians fleeing violence. What would typically be a quiet time spent with family became very busy, frequently working late into the night to help families settle. There were many challenges handling so many arrivals in such a short time, but my colleagues and I at the Association for New Canadians supported one another. These days, I’m happy to see some of these same faces working, living and playing in St. John’s in what has become their new home.
10. What’s your greatest indulgence?
Ice cream — at any hour, any flavour! Sometimes every hour, every flavour.
11. What is your favourite movie or book?
"Dreamers" by Yuyi Morales. It’s a children’s book that speaks to positive immigration stories yet still recognizes real struggle. I love kids’ books, especially for their quick, digestible art. I discovered the book while presenting stories to a children’s day camp. The camp had a lot of newcomer kids as participants, and it was great to find something that could reflect some of their experiences. I’m also a big fan of Valeria Luiselli, who writes fiction and non-fiction about immigrant experiences. I have a copy of "Tell Me How It Ends," detailing her experience as a translator for children seeking asylum in the United States. It’s short, but moving and informative. I think my copy has more bookmarks than pages.
12. How do you like to relax?
Gardening — pulling weeds is both relaxing and monotonous.
13. What are you reading or watching right now?
"Feminist City: A Field Guide" by Leslie Kern;" What I Remember, What I Know: The Life of a High Arctic Exile" by Larry Audlaluk; and there’s typically a copy of The Economist magazine nearby.
14. What is your greatest fear?
I don’t know if it counts as a fear, but it breaks my heart when people are told or shown they aren’t valued. It’s crushing when people are excluded because of ability, race, gender, age, or income. And maybe spiders.
15. If you had to perform karaoke, which song would you choose and why?
“Sabotage” by Beastie Boys. I’ve got hilarious memories singing karaoke with friends at Peter Easton Pub.
16. What is your most treasured possession?
My mother is a seamstress, and I’m really fortunate to have many pieces made by her, some of which we’ve designed together.
17. What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?
My sincerity and approachability. My father has worked and volunteered with the public for well over 45 years, and he has taught me how to have a conversation with anybody — how to bring people in and find common ground.
18. What three people would join you for your dream dinner party?
Mary MacDonald, a key member of the arts scene in St. John’s who passed away in 2017. Mary was wise and gave great advice, even if she knew it wasn’t pleasing to hear. She encouraged people to get involved to make something better. Dr. Lloydetta Quaicoe, founder of Sharing Our Cultures, who has worked tirelessly at many levels to help children be seen and heard in Newfoundland and Labrador. And Tilak Chawan, a close friend and mentor from my days at the Association for New Canadians, who gives so much of himself. We’re often busy and we don’t always make enough time to catch up.
19. What is your best quality, and what is your worst quality?
I think my best quality is my willingness to jump in, to just go for it! I have plenty of energy and a pretty positive outlook on life, so when I see a challenge or an opportunity to build something — community, health, sustainability — I tend to get engaged, and get to work. My worst quality is that I can overextend myself. Pacing myself is key, so I try to surround myself with people who help me check myself and manage expectations.
20. What’s your biggest regret?
For many years I have wanted to walk with Tshaukuesh Elizabeth Penashue, but haven’t yet had the opportunity. She is somebody I admire, (who) teaches great humility and strength in persistence.