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70 Ways to Build Community, Save Your Sanity, and Change the World

70 Ways to Build Community, Oh My! Handmade

It’s become such a cliched phrase-something we say and recognize to be true but don’t often act on:

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

What does that even mean?

I am asked all the time – “How can I possibly do it all?”

The hard truth is you can’t.

You can’t be everything to everyone all the time. You can’t be the only one responsible for raising your children, running your business, managing your life. You CANNOT do it all alone. And you don’t have to. You shouldn’t even try!

The superwoman/man myth is so dangerous to our parenthood and our lives. It causes us to not ask for or allow ourselves to receive help and to deny when we feel vulnerable, needy, or afraid. It also puts up walls and barriers that keep us from reaching out to others and building a community that knows us for who we really are. We present what we want the world to see, the very best parts of who we think we are, but beneath it all:

We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common broken humanity. We all have wounded, broken hearts. Each one of us needs to feel appreciated and understood; we all need help. 

Jean Vanier, Becoming Human 


Isn’t that is what is most beautiful about us? What unites us all no matter how diverse we might seem to be, is that we all need to belong, we all need support. Why deny that? Embrace it, that is where our humanity lives and where compassion comes from. Our brokenness is our biggest strength.

Jean Vanier is the leader of the L’Arche movement, a powerful community model that brings diverse people together to support people with disabilities in loving environments. His words are a call for all of us to live more compassionate and humane lives. He is also one of my personal heroes.

My mother was a young, visibly Black, single mama who had no family support while I was growing up. My nana was a brilliant artist but a truly awful mother, she was abusive, had serious baggage and offered my mother no support or encouragement. So it was little wonder that my mother felt called to help people who were suffering, to give them what she didn’t have. She worked in mental health and community development for people with disabilities and I often came to work with her. I have so many wonderful memories of visiting the group homes my mother worked in and spending time with people of every ability. This is such a huge part of who I am and how I see the world, but there was a price paid. My mother spent her days helping others and then came home to cater to my needs. No one was there to support her. She really did do it all alone and it took a toll on her physical and mental health. My childhood was beautiful but also incredibly hard, filled with loss and struggle.

When I moved out I was drawn to the same work with women, youth, and children. I have always wanted to offer people the support we never had when I was a child. No one should have to suffer alone or in fear. How I do that work has changed over the years but even here on OMHG it’s the same fundamental mission. To share love, be loved, spread love. Through handmade, yes. But mostly through connecting people with others and making them feel less alone and more empowered. This is the root of Jean Vanier’s philosophy:

jean vanier, sixty ways to build community, you are not alone, sustainable community development

If you are feeling like you just can’t do it all and you’re all alone-reach out! Open up. Creating community is the biggest investment you will ever make for yourself and of course for your business. Build both your local and online communities, connect with other people whose stories you care about, who you can be honest with, and who will be there for you when you are struggling. Be there for them. Stop trying to do it all alone, you will always feel like you are missing something and falling short. So whether you are a single mother struggling to fill the role of both mama and papa, or you have a large extended family, or a ton of supportive friends- it doesn’t matter. Your community is right there, waiting for you to  lend a hand or ask for someone to hold yours. Both are wonderful, both are needed.

It is just as important to accept help as to offer it, community building is about reciprocity. A give and take. So if you are in a position of strength offer help, if you see someone struggling stop and see if they will accept support, just be there for each other. Sometimes when we give help we actually get the help that we need. It is amazing that way.

I only have one caution – only offer what you are really able to give. Don’t offer because you think you should but don’t really want to do. Never give out of obligation, guilt, or because you want to feel good about yourself, give because you DO feel good about about yourself and giving is it’s own reward. We all deserve to have a village and it is up to us to make it happen.

How are you building community? 

Seventy Ways to Build Community, Save Your Sanity, and Change the World

This post was originally published in 2011 here and continues to be one of the most popular articles in the archives connecting with everyone from new suburban mamas to inner city ministers. As I slowly rediscover how OMHG fits in my life it was time to dust off this old friend for the first post of the year because the best goodness is worth revisiting. I made up an updated list of 70 Ways to Build Community that you can download, print, and share with your own communities by clicking the image above.  Learn the basics of personal community mapping with the 100 Ways To Build Community Mini-Guide available by donation here or if you are a maker in Atlantic Canada connect with the Maritime Makers initiative to build our local community and strengthen our region through cooperation!

All Oh My! Handmade Goodness printables and free downloads are for non-commercial, personal use only please. Copyright is owned by the designer unless otherwise stated.  If you have a commercial inquiry please contact the designer or email the editor. Please don’t host the PDF on your own site, we love sharing but link to the original post for the download, thanks!

Happy Birthday OMHG! Celebrating 5 Years of Community Goodness

Celebrate 5 years of creative community with #OMHG!

On July 1st 2010 I pressed publish on my first ever OMHG post, I didn’t know it at the time but I was about to dedicate the next 5 years to championing handmade goodness and crafting a welcoming community of fellow makers. When I started my first handmade business eleven years ago there were very few places to connect with other makers and share resources or support and being a creative entrepreneur could be really lonely. After taking on OMHG as a young parent I quickly realized that the biggest need for the handmade community was a welcoming place for anyone regardless of what stage they were at in their creative journey.

Over the last 5 years OMHG has seen many evolutions as we grew from a multi-contributor blog to a community of peers, through every stage this project has been a labour of love and many helping hands. It has been hard trying to balance my role as the primary provider for my family and my cooperative non-profit ethics before finally realizing that OMHG isn’t a business, or a cooperative, or a social network it is a gift of my skills as a community organizer to the movement I treasure. What a relief to not have to hustle for anything and focus exclusively on creating opportunities for us to work together! I’ve been doing important work this year with 365 Days of Presence, Maritime Makers, our annual Maker’s Retreat, and as a consultant with Etsy on a new community led pilot called Etsy Maker Cities that is working with city partners who celebrate and invest in local creative entrepreneurs to foster a new model for economic prosperity.

Lately there has been an explosion of networks, membership communities, and private Facebook groups that the problem is the opposite of when I started my first business and there was no where to go for support – now there are so many options it is overwhelming. This has led to a real unease with how community is being used as a marketing tool instead of an invitation to belong to something precious. Was I part of encouraging a culture that sees community as something to buy not a gift we share? The thought has kept me up at night and it is why I opened up our membership to by donation in May. Why is the OMHG community still important? Because goodness always matters and with so many groups and clubs things can so easily become competitive making it even more important to have places to gather where cooperation is valued.


A community organizer I know has “If you want a better culture, throw a better party” as their email tagline, and that is exactly what we are going to do.  This summer our community is trialling a new home on the Mightybell platform founded by Gina Bianchini who co-founded Ning before going on to build a platform to connect specialized networks. After years of building and exploring so very many ways to connect community online finally the technology has caught up with our needs, more diverse women led tech start ups are available to partner with (huzzah!), and there are simple to use beautifully designed platforms that make it possible to easily create gathering places for people to connect and organize around shared values.

Last year I looked back on my timeline with our community and since my 2015 is all about the present to celebrate the 5th OMHG anniversary I’m inviting you to all join the next 5 years of crafting a community of goodness for the head, heart, and hands. Whether you make things, make change, or are looking to make more goodness if you value our simple principles of Respect, Equality, Diversity, Cooperation, Compassion, Goodness & Citizenship and are looking for a place to come as you are and be welcomed, join us. You will find our community has no hidden sales or slick pitches, there is no agenda except for supporting each other. Contributions from our fellow makers, supporters, and partners keep the community ad free, our membership fees by donation, and collaborative projects like our art prints and Maker Mail possible.

Let’s work together to answer the question OMHG has been asking for years: what would be possible if you had a whole community cheering you on? 

Maritime Makers #CraftParty

Maritime Makers, How to Fold a Paper Boat printable instructions by Susan Black Design

Maritime Makers is a new volunteer collective founded when advocates of handmade from Atlantic Canada met at the Etsy Team Captain Summit in Toronto at this February. We saw a need for one main portal to connect the work of Maritime makers and maker culture in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland/Labrador, and Prince Edward Island similar to how OMHG has connected makers globally since 2010, so of course I volunteered to help build and organize it. Along with the help of leaders Fatema (NS), Suzanne (PEI), Janie (NB) and our very own OMHG contributor Alison (NL) we launched the Maritime Makers website this month and are working together to grow our local maker movement!


The internet has expanded many of our markets and blurred borders between countries and provinces leading to more opportunities for makers both locally and globally. Maritime Makers intends to show the value in Maritime provinces creating an inclusive, diverse, and welcoming definition of regional cooperation, connecting business, organizations, and advocates on every level to strengthen and support our region. Our first collective project is uniting communities, Etsy sellers, and small business supporters to collaborate on Etsy Made in Canada events in each of our provinces.

As volunteer co-captain of the Halifax Etsy team I’ve also been helping to organize fun accessible projects like team meet ups, designing the new website, and our community #craftparty this weekend at Wonder’neath Artist Studios where we are making a rising tide of folded paper boats to demonstrate how makers and the maker movement are an economic force that can lift us all up. Our goal is to make and install over 1000 unique boats made by many hands from recycled papers during our market this September 26th.


Huge thanks to my brilliantly talented dear friend and neighbour Susan of Susan Black Designs for collaborating on illustrations for this project and a printable tutorial for folding your own paper boats!

Not in Halifax or Canada but still want to participate in this project? Print out the instructions and fold up your own boat! Boats mailed to me will be installed along with ones made during our craft parties and at open craft tables during our market. How neat would it be to show that makers around the world can work together to make art and social change? Boats can be sent by September 20th to:

Maritime Makers, c/o Jessika Hepburn PO Box 1690 Lunenburg, NS B0J 2C0, Canada

I’m excited and honoured to have these opportunities to serve makers directly and improve the quality of life right here in my own backyard. To follow along with this project, learn more about Maritime Makers, or get involved visit our new website!