Social and economic inclusion rooted in community-based project
Receiving the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion’s (BACI’s) first Inclusion through Innovation award for posAbilities’ Can You Dig It! gardening initiative steels the will to do more, project co-ordinator Cinthia Pagé says.
“It’s amazing because we saw the benefits of the initiative for the gardeners, the community and the different people that we support, and to have more partners and more people acknowledging the success and the need for this kind of initiative really pushes us to continue,” Cinthia says.
She and Can You Dig It! were lauded by BACI, a long-time partner, at the association’s annual ball and fundraiser Nov. 3.
The award honours an organization and individual for advancing the inclusion of people of all abilities and learning, and was created by the foundation that is affiliated with BACI called Sharing Our Future Foundation.
Can You Dig It! supports people who have a disability to work with community members to transform urban spaces into food-producing gardens and collectively give back to others.
In its first two years, the initiative has engaged more than 700 people to create 21 gardens all over the lower mainland.
Partnerships have been key to the project’s growth, with gardens created on municipally- or church-owned land and properties of posAbilities, BACI and the Simon Fraser Society for Community Living.
Can You Dig It! also partners with MOSAIC so immigrants and refugees can participate and build connections in the community too.
“We talk about getting more people together so the more people we touch, the better,” Cinthia says.
BC Social Venture Partners, Wal-Mart and other also provide support and funding.
Some of the produce grown is donated to a food bank, church or community kitchen which “creates another link” with the community, Cinthia says.
In addition to social inclusion, Can You Dig It! also fosters economic inclusion by utilizing the services of BACI’s Grape Box and posAbilities Don’t Sweat It social enterprise to build boxes and help set up the gardens.
Cinthia says one of the keys to Can You Dig It’s success is that it’s rooted in gardening, where seeds of acceptance and diversity are sewn.
“In the garden, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you do for a living or who you are; you can connect over the same activity, the same goal, and we thought it was a beautiful place to connect people from different backgrounds,” Cinthia says.
Increasing interest in communities growing their own food for security, greening and other advantages makes Can You Dig It! a project that’s “arrived at the right time and place,” Cinthia says.
President Celso Boscariol, in accepting the BACI award, said the local initiative enhances lives and communities. Growing things also brings satisfaction.
BACI co-executive director Richard Faucher commended posAbilities’ commitment and effort to Can You Dig It! “because we know at BACI how difficult it is to take an idea, no matter how worthy, and turn it into reality.”
“As a community, we can look at posAbilities for inspiration and leadership,” he said.
— With files from Camille Jensen
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