The West End is an inner-city neighbourhood located on Vancouver’s downtown peninsula. The district is one of densest areas in Canada, and is home to over 45,000 people. The neighbourhood also has some of the highest concentrations of rental housing in the city, and many neighbours live alone in studio and one bedroom apartments.
During the pandemic, many neighbours instantly became isolated, disconnected, and ultimately lonely when physical distancing and stay-at-home instructions were given. Social isolation and Loneliness can affect anyone at all stages of life, and is closely linked to mental health.
During the pandemic, and even after social distancing guidelines were dropped, many neighbours still reported feeling disconnected. To combat this issue, Gordon Neighbourhood House reinvigorated its urban gardening program to engage residents and reconnect neighbours.
While gardening may seem like a solitary hobby, we have found there is a universal interest in learning how to grow plants with others either in-person, physically distanced, or virtually through online Zoom workshops. Gardening is a wonderful way to connect with nature, reduce stress, share skills and knowledge, promote healthy eating, and encourage socializing and interaction.
Studies have shown that feeling connected to friends or the wider community can reduce the likelihood of experiencing some mental health conditions, and can help people suffering to recover. This project aimed and succeeded in engaging residents, reconnecting neighbours, and fostering a stronger sense of belonging and community spirit.
Funded through TD Bank’s The Ready Connection, this initiative tackled loneliness and social isolation and improved mental and physical health by bringing residents together with similar interests and passions. Gordon Neighbourhood House’s community garden facilitator engaged residents, onboarded participants, introduced neighbours, co-hosted workshops, and assigned over 50 urban gardening plots. The initiative not only connected neighbours, but resulted in half a dozen free community herb boxes, the reintroduction of indigenous herbs and plants, cleaner soil and air, and the production of local produce that was shared amongst participants.
“I am passionate about community, health, and happy living,” remarked Community Garden Facilitator Deanna Henry, “My vision for our gardens is accessibility, fun, and creating safe spaces for learning. I hope to see everyone having fun in the dirt!”
We thank TD Bank for their generous support of these valuable community programs. If you are interested in joining our West End urban gardening initiative, please email Deanna at email@example.com or call (604) 683-2554.