The happy and smiling faces of our YO (Youth Outreach) team and VIU interns, Graham and Alyssa, have been fantastic in making our drop-in a warm and welcoming place despite the cooler temperatures these days. We recently had 18 youth from the adjacent Cowichan high school stop by for hot chocolate. They came for the warm beverages but ended up staying for conversation and hanging out. There have also been a few repeat families every week, who encourage us to keep up the great work. We are full of gratitude for everyone who comes by our drop-in, as it reminds us of the support in this community, but also that change happens one small step at a time!
Another great success at the drop-in is our Thursday Crafternoon. Our super talented crafter YO team members, Rachael and Emy, always have something new and exciting up their sleeves to teach us. We’ll soon be offering more chances to make crafts. We’ve updated our December and January schedule to make use of the warmth of the CGC boardroom and kitchen. However, we will still be at KinPark to catch the after school traffic that runs through the park. Some of our offerings will include up’cycled holiday crafts which participants can take to give away as gifts, as well as spiced popcorn, cookies, and nuts and bolts type healthy holiday snacks that we hope to sell in the Garden Pantry Thrift Store. For curious, emerging musicians we have two guitars that are available for plucking and learning a few chords!
Another offering we are excited to announce is our drop-in Dad’s and kids cooking class on Monday nights at the CGC teaching kitchen at the Station. Dads are welcome to bring their kids, or to come alone. Graham Cannon, one of our VIU Child and Youth Care interns, who also happens to be a professional chef, is thrilled for the opportunity to lead this class as it has been a long-time dream of his.
More community collaborations have been in the works. We’ve also been networking with Cowichan Tribes Youth Centre, Community Options Society Leadership and Resiliency Program, the Seniors’ Network, and Bikeworks. Many great ideas of bringing youth and families together have been discussed and we’re positive that we’ll have a booming community of families and youth at our drop-in in no time.
Though the weather is cold and wet, we continue to find farm activities to keep us occupied at KinPark. We’ve been focusing on expanding the garden with sheet mulching (lasagne beds). The generous and convenient donations of manure from Queen Margaret’s school, and cardboard boxes from CycleTherapy have been essential to this process. We have been weeding out neglected beds, adding manure, and seeding cover crops of fall rye, peas, and vetch to help build soil over the winter.
All this work would not happen without the dedication of our energetic volunteers and staff. Our Canada World Youth Volunteers, Jason and Rahmi, provide endless enthusiasm and smiles no matter what task they are given. Chris and the VIU WEST (Workplace Employability Skills Training) program have been our solid workers, instrumental in our garden expansion. The VIU group will be working inside for the month of December, creating crafts and seed packets for KinPark seed out of old Food Maps that will be sold in the Garden Pantry Thrift Store.
We’re also excited to finally get our cedar fence up, which Heather has been dreaming of since the spring. We had a group of ten girls from Queen Margaret’s School (QMS) come to work at KinPark for a morning, who helped us start building the fence. The group was split in two, and half of the girls were shoveling QMS manure from their own school horses onto one of our garden beds. We were surprised that they had never been asked to shovel manure before! It was wonderful and empowering to see them having so much fun doing hard, physical labour.
One day in mid-November we were reminded of some of the challenges of urban agriculture, when we discovered that one of our greenhouse windows had been removed and smashed against a park bench. While we did not let this dampen our spirits, it did remind us of the hidden challenges that many people in this community face, people who we would love to provide support for.
As the winter continues, we’ll continue to expand our garden and complete a few other big projects like setting up the raspberry trellis and winterizing our greenhouse for spring starts. Thank you to Buckerfields’s for donating all of the greenhouse poly that we will use to seal up the interior this year. On that note, we’re excited to sit down to make our crop plan for the upcoming season!