The art of giving

Profile: Leo Cheverie by Julie Bull

Leo Cheverie

When Leo Cheverie and I met to chat for this profile, I got to witness the depth and breadth of his relationships and connections. He stopped to speak to nearly every person in the café before getting to my table. “I’m an uber extrovert and I love connecting with people!”

Leo generously gives of his time and energy to a wide range of people, organizations and causes. “I’ve had so many mentors along the way who were giving of their time and energy, allowing me to learn and grow which has instilled that same consideration in me.” 

Where there is injustice, Leo is there to lend his hand and his voice. He is an activist and an advocate for such things as Fight for Affordable Housing and Breaking the Silence and is a long-standing supporter of CUPE.  

Leo also volunteers his time at music concerts and festivals such as Cloggeroo. He credits his family upbringing for his community-minded approach, watching his mom and siblings engaged in community.

Perhaps one of Leo’s greatest strengths is the way in which he builds community and invites others into that shared space. “I like and appreciate everyone, and I see how we can work together. We all have gifts to give and share. Knowing what gifts people have and building community through those gifts can help us solve problems that otherwise seem impossible to solve.” 

A critical and compassionate thinker, Leo is open to learning and applying his new knowledge into action. “Everyone has a voice, and we have a responsibility to ensure that we cultivate spaces where all voices are heard.”

Currently living with bowel cancer, Leo remains positiveand shares his encouragement for people to get tested. “I am so privileged and feel overwhelmed by the support from my family and community and I do what I can to encourage people to be vigilant about their health through regular screening.” Even during cancer treatment, Leo gives his time and energy to others. Last year, he traveled to Ottawa to advocate and lobby on Parliament Hill with the Canadian Cancer Society, and he regularly speaks out locally about the gaps in our healthcare system. 

“I’m a hopeful optimistic who is learning to sustain my own energy amongst the difficult moments.” 

During our conversation, Leo embodied what it means to be an optimist: acknowledging that there are difficult moments, knowing the importance of sitting with the challenges, and holding onto hope that there will be better moments to come. 

“There are good days and there are bad days; any day is a good day to engage with the arts.” Leo can be found engaging with and supporting a wide range of local arts. “I enjoy visual arts, written arts, performance arts, and most of all, music!”

Our conversation weaved stories from his childhood, philosophical ponderings, and general projections of the world we wish to see. As an interdisciplinary thinker, I was struck by Leo’s perspective of politics. “Politics is just the art of the possible.” While contemplating the ways in which politics and art are (and ought to be) connected, he shared how the political sector can learn from artists: “Artists collaborate and cooperate, showing us what is possible when we work together.”

As a life-long learner, Leo talks about how he has learned from other cultures to see what is possible in building and maintaining a sustainable future, free from corporate capitalism. “It’s not about exploiting or extracting; it’s about connecting and collaborating.”

Leo shared stories from his childhood when he felt fortunate to spend a lot of time with his grandparents and others in that generation. “I remember my grandfather being concerned about the land as a farmer and my grandparent’s generation helped solidify my love of the land. The sense of place on PEI is strong and we have a responsibility to the land.” Leo’s commitment to and appreciation of PEI is evident in all he does: “I love PEI and want it to be the best it can be!”

Whether at a union meeting, rally, protest or music festival, Leo can be found strategizing and organizing. “I encourage folks to strategize outside their comfort zone. Organizing helps people find and grow their roots.” The analogies and metaphors in Leo’s stories eventually led to him sharing some of his new learnings about mycelium and the ways in which trees communicate with each other. 

“Like the natural world we are part of, humans are wired for connection, and we are all connected.”