By Robin McGeough
For the Youth and Family Services team, food and a sense of community are essential to our work. However, during times of uncertainty such as COVID-19, these elements are more important than ever. After a series of needs assessment surveys went out to families, the team was inspired to put together a series of care packages to help families and youth address meet their needs. Many families expressed a desire to use gardening to support themselves, connect with their culture and have fun while learning new skills.
With the support of Mason Street Farms, The Lifeline Project, The City of Victoria, and the North Park Neighbourhood House, the Youth and Family Services team organized over 30 care packages for newcomer families over the past month. Packages included plant starters, soil, compost, and pots for families and youth clients. Plant starters included peppers, mint varieties, zucchini, kale, cucumbers and more! Mason Street Farms was able to find plants that, while of great importance to a number of cultures, can often be hard to find, such as mint, tulsi (holy basil) and Thai chilies. Families were also provided with a bag of games, art activities, books and more to keep them entertained and connected while adjusting to life at a distance.
“For many newcomer and refugee families, addressing mental health and isolation, navigating distanced learning, and finding activities to keep youth engaged are very high priorities during this time,” says Youth Settlement Worker, Nabeela Ramji. “To be able to advocate for our clients’ needs and connect with amazing partners like Mason Street Farms and the City of Victoria to deliver on that promise is a true celebration of our community’s power to support vulnerable groups.”
On June 8th, families were invited to Franklin Green to collect their start kits, choose their seedlings and go over care instructions with volunteers. After so many months hosting programs over Zoom, the chance to check in face-to-face (at a safe 2m distance) was a welcome return to (almost) form. As youth begin wrapping up at school, our clients were beyond excited to immerse themselves in a new home-based summer project.
The Youth and Family Services’ team will continue their Zoom programs throughout the summer, and are excited to continue their garden care packages program as a way to stay connected with our newcomer and refugee families even at a distance.