In recognition of 2017 as Ontario’s 150th anniversary, the Ontario150 Partnership Program is providing youth with opportunities to participate in their communities in ways that reflect their creativity, cultural expression, diversity, inclusion, environmental stewardship, entrepreneurship, healthy living and civic engagement.
At Faith & the Common Good, we have been fortunate to receive funding in support of Growing Community: Engaging Diverse Youth to Strengthen Ontario’s Tapestry of Urban Gardens, engaging youth in garden projects in Ottawa, Halton and Toronto.
“I’m proud our government is supporting unique programs, like Growing Community, that encourage young people to get involved in their communities,” says Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. “This investment will help Faith & the Common Good to engage youth from diverse faith and cultural backgrounds so they can come together and learn to grow and maintain an urban garden, which will empower our next generation of leaders.”
We are excited about this project because we recognize the potential of urban gardens to not only build up youth-led community engagement while enabling the skills to grow gardens, but also to facilitate positive interaction among young people of diverse backgrounds and faiths, helping to cultivate relationships and celebrate mutual understanding.
Faith communities typically have usable space for community gardens. Growing Community is set to engage a cross section of community partners in increasing the number of young people in planting and maintaining 8 urban gardens across the three cities, at the same time promoting environmental stewardship for the entire community.
In Toronto, a Jewish synagogue, a Christian church, and a Muslim mosque will host pollinator gardens. “Shaarei Shomayim is pleased to be participating in this great program,” says Nicole Toledano, Executive Director at Shaarei Shomayim Congregation. “We are exciting about having a native garden that is planted and managed by our youth, putting their own ‘roots’ into our garden and fostering sustainability.”
In Halton, a Muslim elementary school and a Catholic secondary school will also be focusing on creating habitat with a strong focus on Indigenous gardens. Plans are underway to incorporate native species, emphasizing traditional Indigenous herbs and plants in the garden for the students. “We hope to see the students acknowledge and appreciate the territorial land that we will build this garden on," says Chantelle Misheal, Halton Project Animator. "We hope this leads the students to better understand the many healing benefits of the natural world around us."
In Ottawa, there is a competitive application process for three faith communities to participate. “We are hoping that our model will encourage various faith communities to think and consider their landscapes in a new way.,” says Katherine Foster, Ottawa Project Animator. “By using this model, we hope to widen the awareness of the Ontario 150 program and the projects that are being done by youth this year.” (The Ottawa application deadline is Tuesday, May 9. Visit our Ottawa chapter page for details.)
Growing Community employs three Regional Animators to mentor youth participants in leading volunteers of all ages to work and learn together while creating in the gardens. The project includes an education component for the youth as well as a culminating celebration event in the fall. Youth will assist in producing on-line content for Province-wide distribution including news, photographs and stories. The project will conclude with a youth-led Province-wide webinar to share their knowledge and inspire other faith sites to lead similar projects.
“Whether pollinator gardens, vegetable gardens, sacred medicine wheels, or other types of gardens, we look forward to seeing what these youth come up with as a way of participating in and providing a lasting recognition of Canada’s and Ontario’s 150th anniversary,” concludes Project Coordinator, Lisa Seiler.
To find out more about Growing Community, visit the project webpage at www.faithcommongood.org/ontario_150.
Project Coordinator — Lisa Seiler [email protected] 1-866-231-1877 x105
Halton — Chantelle Misheal [email protected]
Ottawa — Katherine Forster [email protected]
Toronto — Donna Lang [email protected]