For over 20 years, the Neighbourhood Small Grants program has brought people together and made communities more resilient. The grassroots initiative provides grants up to $500 to fund small projects that connect neighbours, share skills, celebrate diversity, and foster a stronger sense of belonging. This year however, as the seriousness of COVID-19 became more clear, the feasibility of hosting the much-loved program came into question. Equally troubling, public health orders to physically distance from others has had the unintended impact of creating more social isolation and disconnection.
Rather than cancel the grants, the Vancouver Foundation (which funds the program) boldly decided to create a new granting stream called Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants to support virtual projects with no physical gathering component.
One such project was Art for Heart project led by Geetanjali Joshi. Geetanjali recently moved to Vancouver in December of 2019. Prior to arriving in Canada, Geetanjali lived in India and had only left the country twice to visit the United States on a cultural exchange program. The Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants program provided Geetanjali “with the opportunity to serve my new home and its people.”
Professionally trained as a teacher and a lifelong artist, Geetanjali applied to host an online art class. “I live alone in Vancouver and am eager to connect with other people who might be alone and are in need of support and mental escape in this tough time,” she explained, “I find art to be therapeutic, and want to share it.”
A committee of neighbours reviewed her application, and awarded her $500 in funding. Geetanjali then advertised the project on a facebook community page. Eight West End neighbours quickly signed up, and she arranged to have art supplies safely distributed to all participants.
Over Zoom video chat sessions the participants bonded and painted together. “It was a wonderful experience connecting with them and doing some amazing art,” she remarked. “We had three zoom sessions on three Sundays. What started out as 8 strangers who are now friends and fellow artists. it was a great experience for all.”
Gordon Neighbourhood House coordinates the Neighbourhood Small Grants program for all residents on the downtown peninsula. Learn more about program and Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants online. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.