In Conversation with Joy Gyamfi, Young Ideas Program Assistant

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

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Tell us briefly about your background – family, education, and work.

I was born in Ghana but have grown up and lived in Canada for the majority of my life. (16 years to be exact.) I am now a student at UBC, and I’ve mainly worked in the food service and retail industry before this position.

How did you find out about Gordon Neighbourhood House?

I’m a Co-op student, so I found out about GNH through the Summer Day Camp Leader position that they advertised with Co-op.

What interested you about us?

When I first found out about GNH I was mainly interested in finding a job but now that I’ve worked here for 5 months, I’m really interested in and proud of the fact that we are able to run so many programs that are low-cost and affordable.

Now, you’re working with Gordon Neighbourhood House. What tasks and responsibilities come with this position?

Now that my position has changed, I am a Program Assistant for Young Ideas. I essentially help plan events for people living in the West End area.

Where do you hope Gordon Neighbourhood House moves forward into the future?

Although GNH is well-known in the West End area, I hope that it can become a more recognized name outside of this community.

 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.


Gordon Neighbourhood House

Gordon Neighbourhood House: What is a Neighbourhood House, and What Does It Do?

  1. Short intro to GNH

Found tucked away in pockets of lively communities, neighbourhood houses are hidden gems enchanted with an ambience of hospitality and zest. Most might not know about neighbourhood houses. Indeed, they might not know their content and purpose. There’s a few in the Lower Mainland including South Vancouver, located on Victoria Drive; Mount Pleasant located on East Broadway; Kitsilano, on West 7th Avenue, and finally, Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH), which can be found on Broughton Street. Many are associated with the Association of Neighbourhood Houses in British Columbia (ANHBC). We want to explore some of the aspects of a neighbourhood house through a case study in GNH. But what is a neighbourhood house? What is its purpose, and how can one get involved?

The ANHBC helps over 100,000 British Columbians with over 300 programs. These include child care and other family resources, support for seniors and youth, and even food programs. For examples, these can mean camping and community dinners.  The ANHBC remains an overarching association for seven neighbourhood houses. Some of these have been around for a long time. For example, and to the case study, GNH has been around since 1942 in Vancouver’s West End.

The organization aims to facilitate community engagement and interaction. This is done through various programs for the development of the community by the community. Now, the key phrase “neighbourhood house” has more clarity. A neighbourhood house is part of the community and a collective effort for public engagement. This will include work with sister associations through bottom-up, or grassroots, organizing for diverse engagement to reflect the West End community.

Throughout the Lower Mainland, neighbourhood houses have become grassroots organizations that are constructed and developed, by, and for, the people of the local community. As with most bottom-up organizing, GNH is one of them.

  1. Victoria’s and Scott’s Experiences

We have been to Gordon Neighbourhood House before, in different events. Scott attended in October for a Young Ideas meeting, which is, as per the title, an event for the organization’s youth wing. Victoria could make it for part of a community dinner, which was connected to the Vancouver Food Conversations event; part of GNH’s annual West End Food Festival. We found the experiences pleasant and informative, and the membership enthusiastic, warm, and professional. Our hope is that individuals will consider these hidden community resources right in their proverbial Lower Mainland backyard. In fact, they have numerous ongoing, upcoming, and annual events.

  1. How to Get Involved/Upcoming Events

The GNH hosts a multitude of events and programs at its venue located on 1019 Broughton Street. Programs are available for citizens of all ages and backgrounds. Families and youth are supported through experiential learning that inspires not only intellectual, but emotional discovery as well. A Seniors’ Advisory Committee consisting of GNH members advises the GNH on improving the issues faced by seniors in the community and city. The GNH also hosts a Seniors’ Lounge every week from Monday to Wednesday, which is open for all West End elders to meet with old and new faces. Additionally, Seniors’ Out-Trips are organized to provide West End’s seniors with the opportunity to take part in the outdoors and diverse cultures in the Greater Vancouver Region, while socializing with other elders.

In GNH’s Young Ideas (YI) initiative, GNH acknowledges that a community is largely affected when its members experience loneliness or social isolation. With 48% of West End’s demographic being between the ages of 20 and 39, 41% of which finding it difficult to make friends, the YI organizes events, activities, and workshops to create opportunities for those between 20 and 39 to engage and forge relationships between West End’s community members. In addition to these programs, GNH also has a “Neighbourhood Small Grants” program and organizes “The Clean Team” in partnership with the West End Business Improvement Association to audit litter and work towards a cleaner neighbourhood.

There are two annual events at GNH: The West End Food Festival and the Vancouver Food Summit. The West End Food Festival is a multi-day event focusing on bringing public attention to various topics of concern in our food system, and using food to bring together community members to celebrate the diversity of food and cultures in the West End community.

The Vancouver Food Summit was an incredible and rare opportunity for individuals, community food practitioners, farmers, community leaders, academics, funders and activists and stakeholders to spend a day sharing experience and expertise, challenging assumptions, having difficult conversations and exploring how to deepen our collective impact. The interest in food in our city has gained significant momentum, in fact this year Vancouver celebrates the third anniversary of the Vancouver Food Strategy.

A key aspect of this work must be focused on a critical analysis of who is typically left out of conversation around our food system and why? The Vancouver Food Summit allowed us to collectively push ourselves to think about what an inclusive food movement looks like. Attendees chose between eight different panels throughout the day, involving discussions on eight topics central to Vancouver’s food movement. Topics included: the advancement of indigenous food sovereignty, a critical look at food banks, the efficacy of food policy at challenging poverty, the question of whether local food is inherently more just, accessibility as more than a ramp, and whether food waste was an opportunity or a curse. Using food to animate important conversations, GNH is a central hub for these activities.

Volunteer postings for GNH can be found on GNH’s website, and include a variety of postings; from yoga instructors to herb garden volunteers, to outreach and awareness volunteers. Becoming a volunteer for the GNH can be a very enriching and fulfilling experience, as well as an effective way to engage with West End’s community.

You can become involved and donate to Gordon Neighbourhood House at their website. Note: there are restrictions on the kinds of material donations. http://gordonhouse.org/

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger) & Victoria Teo

Scott Jacobsen

 

Victoria Teo

How My Kids’ School Renewed My Belief in Democracy

This is a special to the GNH Blog by Trish Garner.
Originally posted at The Tyee

Back-to-school week is always intense.

But for my family this year, it was especially intense — and remarkably inspiring.

Our preparations included eight hours of meetings in one day to find solutions to big challenges, and we still came out excited about going back to school. What thrilled me most was being involved in a gritty but inspiring process that reignited my belief in democracy.

Witnessing people from five to 75 negotiate their needs as individuals and as a community gave me hope. It showed me that when people commit to the work of the democratic process, what seems impossible becomes doable. It made me realize that this is the work that we, as B.C. residents, need to do to build a better province together.

My family is new to Windsor House, an alternative, publicly funded school that offers students from kindergarten to Grade 12 a self-described “free, democratic school” or, as we call it, a school where the kids get to choose what they want to learn. Literally.

It’s an educational model that’s hard to organize at the best of times. But last year the school lost its physical site in North Vancouver and this year, it’s using a “multi-campus model” with several smaller venues while it looks for a new home.

One easy way to manage the change might have been to let school staff set up a schedule and slot students into predetermined activities.

That’s not what we did. In the four-hour meeting I attended with my seven-year old twins, they first had to choose what they wanted to do in their first week. After writing down the activities they were interested in, ranging from animals to woodwork, we all worked together to figure out where students would go each day during the week.

It wasn’t easy. We had four available spaces for learning, offering different activities and topics each day.

Each corner of the room represented one of the different locations, and 25 chairs were set up in each one, showing the number of spaces available. The first Monday was to offer sword-building, gaming, swimming or media arts in the four locations.

The kids raced to find a seat in the corner of their choice and when there were more than 25 kids in a corner, they were involved in finding solutions to accommodate everyone. In some situations, kids who gave up their spots had first choice next week, or perhaps got to determine the activities in a different location. Each day there were more activities and more choices.

I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I suspect we all were. But what I saw unfolding was choice that moved beyond the individual in a complex dance of personal desire, social group dynamics (where is my friend going?), practical logistics, community norms and regulations (which, by the way, are also figured out together at Windsor House), and the needs of the community.

Sounds complicated? It was. At the end of that day of meetings, principal Meghan Carrico described this move as “the hardest thing she has ever done in her entire life.” Then she added, “I can’t imagine a better group of people to do this with.”

It’s not that this is a group of people with special skills or attributes. What makes them exceptional is simply their commitment to a process of full democracy. A process that involves asking and answering difficult questions. A process that provides a space where everybody feels heard and respected. A process where challenges are seen as opportunities. A process that is not reduced to voting (as democracy has been in our electoral system) but invests in coming to a shared solution. A process that doesn’t take democracy for granted but recognizes the work of doing democracy, every day. In short, a process that builds a truly democratic community.

The other four hours of meetings that day were two spent getting to know the kids’ new teacher advisor, who spent time learning what they’re interested in, and then two hours in the evening at a parents’ meeting focused primarily on discussing the pedagogy of this model, and then a bit of time for the practical logistics of bus schedules, etc. This meeting was mandatory (and childcare was provided to make that possible), making me realize that the only thing they force at Windsor House is full engagement.

At the end of the last meeting of the long day, Carrico asked: “Are there any more questions?” Everybody was tired and ready to go home — but no one complained when 10 more hands shot up. Sure there was a collective groan, but there was also a shared laugh as we all dug in for the last few minutes of the late evening.

Democracy in action is not easy — in fact, it’s very, very hard — but it is beautiful.

In my work in poverty reduction, I often see people shy away from engaging in democracy, saying that talking about the root causes of poverty is “too political.” So it’s wonderful to see people working hard at democracy. It’s only a small community of 170 families and a dedicated staff, but being part of it is enough to make me believe that this could be done on a larger scale.

We have an opportunity in the lead-up to the provincial election in May 2017 to work hard at democracy at that level. Ask difficult questions. Include everyone. Face the challenges. Invest in shared solutions. Do democracy every day.

 

Trish Garner is the community organizer of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, and has two kids entering Grade 3 at Windsor House and a preschooler looking forward to going next year.


Food, race and the ethnic aisle

This is a special to the GNH Blog by Rebecca Cuttler.
Originally posted at Vancouver Observer.

Kevin Huang at the Gordon Neighbourhood House event, “What’s up with the Ethnic Aisle?” Photo by Matt Schroeter.

It is, perhaps, a cliche to say that food brings people together. A good meal, shared amongst friends or strangers, can provide an ideal starting place for dialogue, learning and connection. Food is a language we all speak.

Yet food can also be fraught with its own complexities. Consider, for instance, the “ethnic aisle”. In grocery stores across Vancouver, staples from non-European countries are often grouped together in a jumble of sauces, spices and dried goods segregated into their own area.

This phenomenon was the starting point for a recent event at the recently closed Heartwood Cafe entitled “What’s up with the ethnic aisle?” Hosted by Gordon Neighbourhood House, the discussion followed on an earlier panel at the May 2016 Vancouver Food Summit, “Why is the food movement so white?”

Our world is currently experiencing a time when race, ethnicity and culture are at the forefront of many people’s minds. Police killings in the United States and the rise of Black Lives Matter have sparked an urgent dialogue about systemic racism.

Xenophobia in North America and Europe has shaped the current political landscape, with potentially huge implications. These topics are complex and extend far beyond food.

However, it turns out that what we put on our plates, and how we buy it, bring up their own set of important challenges, many of which affect Vancouver directly.

I was fortunate to be able to interview two of the event panelists, indigenous law specialist and former Vancouver Park Board member Niki Sharma, and Chinese-Canadian youth organizer and Executive Director of the hua foundation Kevin Huang.

The panel at the Vancouver Food Summit was entitled “Why is the food movement so white?” Do you think it’s true that the food movement is white?

Niki: There are a lot of people of colour that participate in local food production. I believe the real question is: are the voices of these people represented in the organizations claiming to represent the local food movement?

Kevin: In a local food systemic context contained to the Lower Mainland, yes. While we are often asked to choose organic kale as a way of supporting local farmers and community agriculture, I think it’s just as important to include organic bok choi in these selections as a means of providing culturally appropriate food choices.

Niki Sharma at the Gordon Neighbourhood House event, “What’s up with the Ethnic Aisle?”. Photo by Matt Schroeter.

 

How much does the problem have to do with how we define “food movement”? Are there other food movements out there besides organic food, locavorism and farmer’s markets?

Kevin: I don’t see it as a problem of how we define “food movement” as much as questioning who is this movement for, who it is serving, who is not at the table, and who are we excluding? Vancouver’s demographic is diverse and the food movement should reflect that.

The interesting things about Farmer’s Market-style direct sales is that they are also quite prevalent in most places around the world: wet markets, morning markets, you name it. Perhaps increasing the availability of culturally appropriate food items, increasing accessibility, and advancing our cultural competency to work interculturally would fill this engagement gap.


There is also the opportunity for us to expand or even redefine Vancouver’s “Food Movement”. We are missing out on recognizing and celebrating individuals acts such as grandmas and grandpas growing their own food in their backyards or even parents teaching their kids in the privacy of their own home how they should not waste food and to compost.

Niki: I spoke about my father during the panel at the Vancouver Food Summit. He has been collecting seeds and growing food for most of his life. He has a deep knowledge of growing food that he shared with us.

In many ways he is a local food champion, but I am sure he would not know why he was called that. This speaks to the disconnect of the movement to include stories of those with deep knowledge about local food from many different backgrounds. Ultimately, I believe the “food movement” cannot be successful if it chooses to define itself through disconnected and unrepresentative boardrooms.

In terms of other movements, food justices needs to be part of every movement or ultimately it just becomes an club that only few can participate in.

How much of BC’s food system – especially when it comes to things like agricultural production, importing and distribution – is dependent on the work of immigrants and migrant workers?

Niki: I would like to know these statistics. Between migrant workers, Chinese Canadian and South Asian farmers, I would expect this numbers to be high.

Kevin: With the exception of First Nations, acknowledgement that we are all immigrants is important. From hua foundation’s area of work, it is deeply concerning that there are only three academic studies on the Chinese Food Distribution system, considering how large the system is locally.

The Chinese once produced up to 90% of British Columbia’s vegetables before racist policy pushed them out. Similar to how there is little recognition on Chinese contributions, we rarely acknowledge the “immigrants” and migrant workers that continue to produce our food locally.

What’s up with the “ethnic aisle”?

Niki: I think we need to examine the word “ethnic” and think about what we mean when we say it. Canadians of colour will tell you that the ethnic aisle is where all the food from non-white countries is found. Despite being part of Canada for generations – certain backgrounds are considered more Canadian than others. For example, Chinese people migrated here before B.C. was a province. At what point does a culture or food stop being labelled “ethnic” in Canada?

Kevin: From a business logistics point of view, it is where you put all the “exotic” foods that your business traditionally doesn’t import/buy. For mainstream, non-visible-minorities it is where non-staple items can be found.

The sociological issue with the “ethnic aisle” is that it reinforces the “othering” of people of colour and “diverse” communities. The ethnic aisle is a physical manifestation of the fact that we live in a (white) colonial society where people of colour and Indigenous communities are still regarded as “others”.

I have hopes that the “ethnic aisle” is only a transitory stage as we work towards being more inclusive and recognizing our city’s diverse range of cultural backgrounds.

What can the food movement, and individuals who are a part of it, do to be more inclusive? Or, put another way, what can people from diverse cultural backgrounds do to have more prominent voices around food issues?

Kevin: Not a prescriptive checklist but some ideas: Build and invest in cultural competency. Empower those that have the lived cultural experiences. Work with those that are able to bridge cultures and create intercultural understanding.

Design programs and engagement models with a social justice and decolonizing lens. Recognize tokenism, unconscious bias, and avoid the Social and Moral Licensing trap. Be open to learning and challenging established beliefs and ways of thinking, both individual (self) and community (public).

Niki: I think all those involved in the food movement need to make the inclusion of all people of all backgrounds a priority, particularly those who are already participating in local food production but don’t have a voice at the table.

Also, there needs to be more linkages between organizations in different communities doing similar work.

Rebecca Cuttler is an urban gardening teacher, member of the Vancouver Food Policy Council and Houzz.com gardening contributor. She blogs about urban food gardening at http://abundantcity.net.


In Conversation with Susanna Millar

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

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What’s your brief background – family, education, and work? How did you find out about Gordon Neighbourhood House? What was your original interest in us?

My background and how I came to know GNH are closely linked. I studied social work and have always had an interest in agriculture. I had travelled and worked on several farms abroad as a WWOOFer (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) and always knew I wanted to incorporate this passion into my work somehow. Trying to connect my love of agriculture with social work seemed tricky at first, until I became familiar with the work GNH was doing around food and community. The GNH food philosophy was inspiring to me, and I felt this was a place where food could be grown locally with the community, cooked together, and shared over laughs. I am now grateful to be part of it.

Any suggestions for others to become involved with us? Any suggestions in ‘spreading the word’ via social media, word of mouth, newspapers, blog posts, articles, and so on?

We are always looking for folks to get more involved at the house. As cheesy as it sounds I truly believe there is something for everyone here. My suggestion is to check out our programs online or at the front desk, and if there’s something that interests you, sign up! We are also always hosting special events, so it is important to sign up for our newsletter and check out our Facebook page so you don’t miss those. If you see an event, post, or article that you like, chances are your friends might like it too- so be sure to share! GNH is a great place to meet new people, and I often hear stories of long lasting friendships that began at an event, in a program, or through volunteering. Don’t be shy…once you attend something you’ll be part of the GNH family.

You are a farmer and community programmer for Gordon Neighbourhood House. What are your tasks and responsibilities in that role?

As the farmer/community programmer I look after the GNH urban farms and community herb gardens around the West End. With 4 farms and 10 herb gardens to date, it’s safe to say I can’t keep up without an enormous amount of help from volunteers. The urban farm team is incredibly keen, and we go out each week to look after whatever needs to be done (weeding, watering, harvesting, and way more). Together we have learned how to maximize our space with salad greens, companion plant, troubleshoot with pests, and attract pollinators.  Once the produce is ready it gets harvested and brought back to Chef Peter, or one of our many other food related programs at the house.

Gordon Neighbourhood House wants to make the West End a better place to “live and grow” whilst remaining “sensitive to the ever changing needs of the diverse groups of people” in the neighbourhood. What do you see as the importance of this message and work by Gordon Neighbourhood House?

Being a better place to live and grow means all people feel welcome in this space. When I say there is something for everyone here, it means we strive to ensure that each person who walks in the door finds something important to them: English conversation class, a new friend, a tasty meal with neighbours, or a treasure at the attic.  It also means that this person has something to offer which makes this place grow alongside them: maybe they raise issues that affect seniors at the seniors’ lounge, or are looking to get their hands dirty at the farms, or find themselves starting a dance party at a Young Ideas event. With the West End being a fairly diverse community with a wide set of skills, interests and challenges, we see GNH mirroring such diversity in our programming and activities. This must also come with a commitment to critical conversations around how to make this community better in the future, and advocating to see that change happen.

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Where do you hope Gordon Neighbourhood House moves forward into the future?

It is my hope that Gordon House continues to grow in the direction it is headed. I dream of a place with farms on all sides, food in all rooms, and conversation amongst all people. As I say this however, I am sitting at the front desk on a regular Thursday night at GNH and it feels pretty good. The Rainbow Soup Social is cooking up a meal for the Community Food Hub tomorrow and it smells amazing, “Mexican Fiesta soup” they say. In room 1 there’s a free documentary film screening about the Site C dam, with a Coast Salish welcome song and drum. A couple regulars are chatting in the lobby over some coffee, and curious people come and go from the thrift store. I just commented to someone that I hoped to pop in to see the film because “it’s pretty quiet right now”. If this is quiet, I think it’s fair to say we’ve hit a pretty high point. I trust it will continue to grow from here.

Thank you for your time, Susanna.

 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.


Pelmeni and Pierogi Making Workshop

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This summer local residents Tanya Shinder and Tanya Fabrichnikova along with their friends led a pelmeni and pierogi making workshop for interested community members at Gordon Neighbourhood House. Pelmeni (Пельмени) are small meat dumplings which originated in Russia, Ukraine, and Siberia. Legend has it that Siberian hunters on winter expeditions would carry large frozen sacks of pelmeni, which could then be boiled in melted snow. While a plate of these dumplings may not look like much to the untrained eye, the dish requires specific techniques to prepare the thin dough and seal the dumplings.

This workshop was funded by a Neighbourhood Small Grant (NSG) from the Vancouver Foundation. The NSG program is a unique initiative which funds resident-led projects that connect neighbours, share skills, and create a more resilient community.

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Armed with instructions from the expert instructors, workshop participants immediately spread out on several tables and began making the small dumplings. Obtaining the right consistency of the unleavened dough requires practice and patience. Too thin and dough will tear when boiled resulting in a dish that is sloppy and soggy, too thick and the pelmeni will be tough and doughy. By the end of the evening everyone was able to make a plateful of pelmeni and pierogis.

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The finished dumplings were then boiled in water infused with black pepper and bay leaves. When the pelmeni began to slowly rise to the surface of the gently boiling water they were strained from the pot and served with butter and soy sauce or sour cream.

After an hour and a half spent preparing and cooking the dumplings, everyone sat down at a long table and enjoyed a meal together while listening to stories from the instructors about making this traditional dish with their families. Tanya Shinder, who was once the proprietor of The Rasputin Restaurant on Broadway Street, even surprised the group with a homemade traditional triple-layered cake at the end of the meal!

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The Neighbourhood Small Grants program is an annual initiative that is funded by the Vancouver Foundation. Gordon Neighbourhood House coordinates the grants for residents on the Downtown Peninsula. For more information please contact Jim Balakshin at jim@gordonhouse.org or (604) 683-2554.

 


Linda’s 36th Anniversary!

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

Toast to Linda

Linda has been an integral part of the Gordon Neighbourhood House and West End community for over three decades. On behalf of our community, we want to express our deepest, heartfelt gratitude to someone not only indispensable to the community at large and to the individual lives influenced by her presence and interactions, but for playing a significant role in the growth of Gordon Neighbourhood House.

When Gordon Neighbourhood House opened in it’s current location at 1019 Broughton in 1986, HRH Prince Charles toured the house. Linda was there the day that he came to the house, in fact he shook her hand and commented on her important role at Gordon Neighbourhood House.

Royal Visit

Paul Taylor said, “Linda’s laugh brightens Gordon Neighbourhood House several times thorough the day. You couldn’t miss it!  It’s as much a part of this place as the walls are. Her commitment and dedication to her community is an inspiration to us all.”

Jim Balakshin said, “Linda is involved in so many aspects of Gordon Neighbourhood House. When we host events, Linda is often the first to arrive and will stay until everything is finished.”

Agata Feetham said, “Linda is a compassionate, kind, and loving person who truly cares about people. She is a hard worker and always willing to help anytime anyone needs it. Linda is a dedicated team player that everyone appreciates and she truly cares about Gordon House and the West End community. I am proud to call her my colleague and friend.”

Linda & Agata

Debra Bryant said, “Linda, you must have welcomed hundreds of newcomers into Gordon House and ANHBC.  Maybe that’s why you’re so good at it.  Thank you for warmly welcoming me when I joined a couple of years ago and for being part of the life of ANHBC for more than a third of our history.”

Thank you, Linda, and happy GNH 36th!

Linda and the crew

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.


In Conversation with Stephanie Shulhan

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

 

Tell us about your brief background – family, education, and work.

I’m from Calgary, Alberta. My family’s small but close. Growing up, I always loved having little family card game nights, dinners, going for walks in Fish Creek Park, and I still love simple dinners and going for walks with my family.

I studied Anthropology and Development Studies (in Calgary), and Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems (UBC). I love studying and consider myself a life-long learner. Education isn’t just about school, and I learned a lot from the jobs I had while I was in school: I worked at a Drop-In Centre in Calgary and learned about how many of us don’t manage to earn a living even when working as many hours as possible, and then at Immigrant Services, which was eye-opening as I met new Canadian residents, refugees, and Temporary Workers with a huge range of life experience. In Vancouver, I loved learning about bees and pollinators during an Internship at UBC Farm, while I was studying issues of (popular) food culture and how we form our definitions of ‘good’ food.

How did you find out about Gordon Neighbourhood House?

I got connected a bit to other N.H.s during my work with the Think&EatGreen@School Project during my studies at UBC.

What interested you about us?

When I saw Gordon Neighbourhood House was hiring, I thought it looked like a fabulous opportunity. I liked its Food Philosophy, range and scope of projects, and the fact that it was so well connected with so many other organizations and initiatives.

Now, you’re the Community Programmer for Gordon Neighbourhood House. What tasks and responsibilities come with this position?

I see it as being mostly about making connections between people, programs, and resources, to respond to real needs/dreams of our neighbours. I help to connect a lot of great volunteers with opportunities to work on projects they’re interested in, share their skills and talents, and to connect with each other and with other members of the community. I like when volunteers and program participants can learn new things or make connections that help them in their personal and career goals.

Where do you hope Gordon Neighbourhood House moves forward into the future?

I think we’ll keep building on our partnerships to reach more people. I’m excited to see more spaces downtown for Good Food initiatives, and to be involved in animating those spaces and helping to bring awesome people into those spaces so they can do amazing things.

 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.


In Conversation with Matt Schroeter (Board Chair)

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

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Tell us about your brief background – family, education, and work.

I’m from Washington State in the USA, and I’ve been living in Vancouver for a little over 8 years now. When I was growing up, I always wanted to be some kind of artist—I just wasn’t sure what kind!

I ended up getting interested in graphic design and got an Associate’s Degree from Centralia College in that. I then got really interested in film, and earned a Bachelor of Art’s Degree at the University of Washington in Seattle. I eventually found my skills more aligned with digital design, so I pursued a Master’s Degree up here in Vancouver—at the Centre for Digital Media.

Throughout high school and university, I was working as a photojournalist and doing freelance design work when it came up. Now I’m working at a small agency making apps and websites, mostly for healthcare and technology companies based in the USA. Outside of that, I’m constantly taking photos around the city, working on personal art/design projects, doing freelance design work, and volunteering with GNH.

How did you find out about Gordon Neighbourhood House?

I was brought into GNH by a mutual friend of Paul Taylor’s about 4 years ago. I was so interested in what was going on there, that I asked Paul how I could lend my skills in the best way. They really needed a new website at the time, and that was something I loved doing. I thought it was a great chance to help out the community and start getting involved.

What interested you about us?

So many things! I liked the sheer diversity of the programs and the people they served—from youth to seniors, and every age group in between. The friendliness of the staff and the willingness to open their doors to the people in the community was especially nice to feel.

Now, you’re the Board Chair for the Young Ideas Steering Committee, Young Ideas Communications Committee & Neighbourhood Small Grants Advisory. What tasks and responsibilities come with these positions?

Currently I’m the board chair for the GNH Community Advisory Board. I’m also member of the Young Ideas Communications Committee and GNH Fundraising Committee. Previously, I served on the Neighbourhood Small Grants Committee for 2 years, but this year I decided to give it a break.

Outside of reading and organizing materials for those meetings, I try to make it to as many events related to those groups as I can. For all of those positions, it’s really important to have a sense of what’s going on in the neighborhood. Making a habit of getting involved in the wide range of GNH events has been the perfect way to get that sense. Often I’ll go to the events as a photographer, and while I’m there I meet people from the community.

How did you come upon, and earn, these positions?

For the Community Advisory Board, I served on the board first—and was elected once the previous chair stepped down. For the other committees, I just expressed my interest to Paul once I heard about them. I’m always looking for new ways to help out GNH, and it’s been so fascinating seeing the it change from those different perspectives since I got involved.

Where do you hope Gordon Neighbourhood House moves forward into the future?

First, I hope GNH can continue doing all this things it’s been doing. I think we’re incredibly fortunate to have a space, staff, and volunteers that make all of the current programs possible. Looking further, I hope that GNH can grow the connections it has in the community and in the city. Thinking about all the work GNH has done, especially around food—the potential to implement similar models in other neighborhoods is very encouraging.

 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.

Photo by David Arias.


In Conversation with Agata Feetham

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)

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Tell us about your brief background – family, education, and work.

I am originally from Poland. I moved to Canada when I was 8 years old with my parents and younger brother. We were very fortunate to have a smooth immigration experience and have been living in Vancouver since 1989. I went to UBC and got my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and then a Diploma in Guidance Studies (through the Faculty of Education). I have been working for Gordon Neighbourhood House for a total of 15 years and currently I am the Program Director.

How did you find out about Gordon Neighbourhood House? 

During my first year in University, I started volunteering at my local neighbourhood House (South Van NH) and there I came across a job posting for a child care worker at GNH.

What interested you about us? 

As a psychology student, I was very excited to gain experience working with children in a community setting.

Now, you’re the Program Director for Gordon Neighbourhood House. What tasks and responsibilities come with this position? 

As the Program Director, I oversee the majority of programs that are not food initiatives (we have a Director of Community Food Initiatives). This includes program coordination, program evaluation, and overseeing a number of community program staff that run and supervise a wide variety of programs.

How did you come upon, and earn, this position?

I took part-time classes throughout university so that I could work part-time and gain experience. I started working in different positions with children and youth (e.g. Out of School Care, Summer and Spring Break Day Camps, etc.) at Gordon Neighbourhood House in 2001 and 3 months after I graduated from the Diploma program in 2005, I was offered the position of Child, Family, and Youth Program Coordinator. Since then, my position and title have changed a couple of times and I now work with GNH as the Program Director.

Where do you hope Gordon Neighbourhood House moves forward into the future? 

My hope for GNH is that it continues to grow and expand the wonderful work that it already offers. I am extremely proud and honoured to be part of an organization and staff team that truly makes a difference in the lives of our neighbours. GNH is very dear to my heart. I have witnessed hundreds of examples over the last 15 years of how essential GNH is to making the West End a vibrant, healthy, and active community.

 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.