Co-op member profile: Jjess Sselwanija

When they moved back to Ottawa after living in the prairies, Jjess Sselwanjja was worried about losing the sense of friendliness and community that they experienced in Alberta.

At Abiwin Co-op, Jjess and her family recaptured that sense of community. Things like the co-op’s weekly Friday night supper club, the well-loved “free stuff zone” in the co-op’s lobby, and small gestures like a fellow member dropping off a pie at theirr door after a hard day, make them feel at home.

Jjess has been on the co-op’s board for three of the four years they’ve lived at Abiwin, and currently serves as the board chair. Their work and educational background ranges from accounting to early childhood education to a stint as a fire-breather’s apprentice!

A self-described “meeting nerd”, they recently also joined the board of the Co-operative Housing Association of Eastern Ontario (CHASEO), the local co-op housing federation. They look forward to broadening their knowledge of the larger co-op housing movement.

Céline Carrière, CHASEO’s Executive Director, commented that Jjess’s “co-operative spirit and great sense of humour” were among the reasons she approached them to join the board, as well as their “ability to understand and communicate the needs of their co-op and [act as a] champion for our movement when meeting with elected officials.”

For Jjess, educational events like CHF Canada’s AGM are a source of inspiration for ways that their co-op can innovate: “When I go to education events, it feels like being showered with seeds that I have to follow up until they turn into fruit.”

Their hope for the future of the co-operative movement is to see more people fall in love with co-ops like they have. “I really strongly believe that co-ops can save the world.”

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