Re-launching community conversations

President of Shuswap Settlement Services, Bernie Desrosiers, is struggling to communicate

Bernie Desrosiers

President of Shuswap Settlement Services, Bernie Desrosiers, is struggling to communicate at the same time he is working to launch a second round of community conversations in the Shuswap.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease nine years ago, Desrosiers underwent brain surgery in April of this year to reduce or eliminate debilitating tremors associated with the disease. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) inserts electrodes in the patient’s brain connected to a stimulator. The current from the stimulators intercept and scramble brain waves that cause the tremors. In his case, while the implant succeeded in reducing tremors, it also served to disrupt Desrosiers’ speech. His speech can now be laboured and often undecipherable.

Community Conversations, first organized last year, invites residents to commit to attend a one-hour conversational gathering once a month for five months.

In the process, participants envision the community of which they aspire to be a part, and to publicly commit the gifts and talents they are willing to bring to the task. Articulating our individual and communal stories prompts us to behave in ways that conform to our story. By focusing on who we are rather than who we were, conversations avoid the tendency to point fingers and apportion blame.

Desrosiers says that the effort now required to communicate leaves him more appreciative of the plight of new Canadians who struggle every day to make themselves understood.

Community conversations provide one more effective and inexpensive tool for building an inclusive, progressive community.  Participants are divided into groups of four to five before reporting back to the larger gathering.

As well, interested organizations and businesses can now access, for free, the staff and volunteer response training required to become a designated community Safe Harbour.  SASCU is currently undertaking to do so in all its Shuswap outlets.

Desrosiers is conscious of a growing tendency, on his part, to avoid situations that require him to speak.

“However, listening alone is not conversation.”

The loss of one’s ability to communicate verbally restricts one’s ability to deploy other gifts one might previously have committed to the cause. Desrosiers is looking for others, with a passion for strengthening community and able to communicate effectively to step up and lead.

The first community conversation will take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 15th at Deo Lutheran Church in Salmon Arm. Subsequent gatherings will be slated, in accordance with feedback received during this initial conversation, at times and places conducive to the participation of the greatest number of participants.

There is no fee required to participate. Registration is available at the door or by emailing

– submitted by Shuswap Settlement Services


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