Sasa Loggin

🕔Jan 31, 2011

Sasa Loggin says she’s shy, has confidence issues and—like a slow moving train—it takes a while to get her engines going. But this is hard to believe.

A self-proclaimed community developer in Terrace, Loggin has her head full of ideas on how to build a stronger community and her hands in almost every local project that aims to do so.

A mother of two teenagers, Loggin, 43, has two official jobs. First, she’s the coordinator of Terrace’s Make Children First Network, dealing with the development of children aged zero to six. She is responsible for passing relevant research on to local stakeholders with the aim of providing opportunities for growth and collaboration.

The organization focuses on recognizing the importance of early child development, and helping to create a community where children and families are valued, supported, inspired and celebrated by all of us.

‘It’s not about individual families. It’s about all of us,” Loggin says. “If we don’t support children when they are young, we will not have a productive labour force. We won’t be able to retire. It’s about the future of humanity, and the way things are going there are more and more vulnerable children.”

Loggin’s is also project director at the Skeena Diversity Society. This non-profit group’s mission is to make Terrace a more welcoming and inclusive community. Loggin and two part-time assistants run a drop-in centre downtown where they host public events like potlucks, dances or movie discussion nights.

Loggin explains, “People come in with ideas and we say ‘We are here to help you.’” That could be anything from helping an immigrant deal with paperwork, youth host an art show, or someone start a business.

Diversity at its best
One of Skeena Diversity’s most recent events, held in partnership with the Terrace & District Arts Council, was Graffiti Fest 2010. The city permitted the group to invite anyone and everyone on a rainy weekend last September to test their creative abilities on the outside of the former Terrace Co-op building. The graffiti is only temporary, as the now city-owned building will eventually be torn down. Still, Graffiti Fest has sparked a major debate in the community. Some support the event entirely, while others are offended by what some call the “ghetto” look of the building.

Loggin is mindful of people’s negative reactions, but instead of getting defensive, she appreciates that people are actually talking.

“I realize how important it is to allow differences of opinion. Don’t censor or squash ideas, or put someone down. Encourage them.”
In her mind, Graffiti Fest 2010 was extremely successful. “I see it as diversity at its best.”

The event played another important role; it brought public attention back to the Co-op building, which has been sitting empty and dilapidated for years now.

Loggin believes the property could be a key future gathering space in Terrace. Four years ago, she and a group of volunteers actually developed architectural drawings of the site. The plans display a multi-use town square complete with green spaces, living quarters, commercial space and more.

“If you can dream it—imagine it—then you can make it happen.”
Without the money to develop the property, however, the city is debating selling it. Skeena Diversity is currently working with the mayor and council to gather community feedback about the property and come up with a plan.

Loggin hopes the ideas put forward at community meetings will be like playdough:

“One person starts it, puts it in the middle and other people add to it and help shape it. The group comes up with something one person couldn’t have.”

A natural collaborator, Loggin will fight for what she believes and makes sure everyone has a say. “In community development, you have to be both confident and humble. You have to stand up and help people, but you also have to step back because it’s not you who should get recognition.”

The velvet revolution
Surprisingly, Loggin’s background is in computers: she studied systems analysis for five years at the Prague School of Economics. Over time, she’s realized that systems thinking complements community development.

Systems thinking looks at systems as a whole and the relationship between their individual parts. In community development, an individual affects his or her community, the community affects the individual, and individuals affect each other.

Loggin partly attributes her focus and belief in dialogue and the power of change on her remarkable European upbringing. She grew up in the Czech Republic when it was a communist country in Czechoslovakia.

“I think I got the best out of what the Communist system had to offer,” she says. She had free and easy access to many sports and arts, and her post-secondary education was free. “But you grow up and know you can’t necessarily say what you are thinking. You can’t travel. It creates a system that’s dishonest. People are not always trusting each other.”

Loggin was one of thousands of Czech residents who, in the fall of 1989, overthrew the authoritarian government during a peaceful uprising now known as the velvet revolution. For close to a month, she went on strike with other students and took to the streets demanding change.

“No one knew what would happen,” she says, describing those days with obvious pride. In the end, the people won.

The revolution’s slogan was “When, if not now? Who, if not us?” She believes these words to this day. “It gave me wings,” she says of the entire experience.

Culture shock
Two years after the revolution, Loggin moved to northern BC with her Canadian husband whom she’d met on a school exchange in Finland. They settled in Smithers for his silviculture job, then three years later moved to Terrace.

“It was quite a culture shock,” she says of moving. “ North American cities are built around a highway. They all have the same gas stations and the same fast-food restaurants.” She jokes that children here need to cross a highway to play with their friends while in Europe they can travel easily on foot or public transit. She remembers taking the bus alone to swimming lessons every morning and afternoon when she was only six.

As part of her extensive research, Loggin has learned that a community’s ‘built environment,’ meaning physical structures and layout, can deeply affect a child’s development, and as a result add to social issues. She points out that there is nowhere in Terrace which acts as that essential central spot where children and youth can observe and interact with adults. In other countries, it’s the town square. In Terrace, it was the mall until Walmart came to town, she says.

“Is that contributing to the generation gap? Maybe we need an intergenerational space?” Loggin asks.

She wonders if these issues help explain the dramatically different reactions to GraffitiFest. The point also returns to her argument about developing the former Terrace Co-op property into what it could potentially be.

Despite her bottomless enthusiasm and endless advocating, Loggin admits to feeling disheartened at times. “Sometimes I think I have too high expectations,” she says. But she shows no signs of tiring. When asked why doesn’t consider returning to Europe, she responds, “I’ve got myself in the thick of it. I cannot leave. The work here is not done.”