Job Vacancy – Manager of Youth & Family Programs

(keep scrolling for the full text)

Purpose

This senior management position at Gordon Neighborhood House works under the direction of the Executive Director to plan, organize, direct and evaluate the delivery of programs for children, youth and families. While the specific portfolio of programs may change and grow from year to year, programs under the direction of this position include our Family Resource Program, Youth programs, Spring/Summer Camps and Community Counselling program. This position will support the growth and operation of licensed childcare, youth, food justice and mental health programming on Vancouver’s downtown peninsula, in many cases becoming responsible for these programs as secured.

The ideal candidate is passionate about building healthy and strong communities, specifically through the lens of promoting the wellbeing of children, youth and families. They will be tasked with creating the conditions at the Neighborhood House where children can thrive, parents are part of a supportive community, and everyone has access to mental wellness content. In other words, “it takes a village”, and this position will be central to realizing that vision at Gordon House.

This is a senior leadership position at Gordon Neighborhood House. Accordingly, the candidate is expected to be a role model for the team in their commitment to our core values. These include a commitment to inclusion, anti-racism, decolonization and social justice. We support a broad range of families, including LGBTQ+ families, families that speak many different languages, Indigenous families, single parent households, multigenerational households, etc. The DYFP is expected to show a high level of competence in designing programs that are inclusive for everyone.

We are an equal opportunity employer and welcome applications from everyone.

Key Duties and Responsibilities

  • Key duties for this position include the following:
    • Working closely with GNH leadership, GNH staff, volunteers and local community to advance the individual and collective interests of children, youth and families across the West End and Downtown neighborhoods;
    • Managing the design, delivery and evaluation of community programs/services as assigned by the Executive Director, which may include licensed childcare;
    • Recruiting and managing a team of front-line staff, volunteers, students and interns to provide high quality services in relevant program area(s);
    • Overseeing program budgets and program expenditures;
    • Keeping comprehensive and detailed records associated with program area(s), including tracking program deliverables on a monthly basis, evaluating program outcomes on an ongoing basis and drafting program reports as needed;
    • Leading ongoing program development, including through seeking/soliciting additional funding, researching/drafting grant applications, developing strategic partnerships and presenting on relevant programs as needed;
    • Maintaining a high quality standard in all programs, including ensuring all licensing or program-specific legislated requirements are met and exceeded;
    • Providing ongoing support, resources and advocacy to children, youth and families, including one-on-one support to individual youth and families;
    • Working in-program to deliver high quality services;
    • Developing and maintaining partnerships with government, health authorities, partner organizations, advocacy groups, communities of practice, volunteers, participants and donors;
    • Leading and participating in the coordination of special events, trainings, community-engagement and team-building activities;
    • Championing the needs, aspirations and visions of communities involved in respective program area(s), including through facilitating community advocacy efforts, participating in relevant community/city-wide processes, and creating meaningful opportunity for community engagement/leadership in respective program area(s);
    • Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to education and growth, including through researching/reading relevant policies/reports, seeking and participating in formal and informal learning opportunities, and always working to deepen understanding of the Downtown-West End neighborhoods and program demographics;
    • Role modelling commitment to relevant Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Commission Calls to Justice, anti-racism, 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion and accessibility for people of all abilities.

Qualifications

  • Undergraduate degree in Child and Youth Care, Social Work, Education or Recreation, or an equivalent combination of education, training and/or experience;
  • Minimum 3 years of experience working with children and youth required;
  • Minimum 2 years of experience supervising staff, volunteers or interns;
  • Experience working in a licensed/accredited setting is considered an asset;
  • Excellent time management and ability to work effectively under pressure, deadlines and shifting workloads;
  • Strong leadership and exceptional interpersonal skills;
  • Strong conflict resolution skills;
  • Strong strategic thinking abilities, and a commitment and excitement for leading the growth of their program area(s);
  • Strong written communication abilities;
  • Organized and detail-oriented;
  • Knowledge of cultural humility, positive behavior support and trauma-informed practice considered an asset;
  • Creative, a sense of humor and able to create a fun/collaborative work environment;
  • Commitment to lifelong learning;
  • Knowledge and commitment to anti-racism, principles of Truth and Reconciliation, inclusion and accessibility;
  • A deep commitment to children, youth and families, and to the work of a Neighbourhood House.

Working Conditions

  • Ability to work flexible hours – may require evening and weekend work;
  • Ability to work outdoors on occasion
  • Class 4 Driver’s License, or willingness to obtain, considered an asset.

Terms of employment

28 – 35 hours per week. Opportunities to grow. Competitive benefits package and flexible working conditions (e.g. partial work-from-home arrangements).

Starting salary between $27.84 and $33.85/hour.

Application Process

Submit a Cover Letter and Resume to Siobhan Powlowski, Executive Director, by July 23 2021. siobhan@gordonhouse.org. Incomplete applications will not be considered.


National Indigenous Peoples Day

National Indigenous Peoples Day occurs each year on June 21st. The Indigenous people of Canada include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. Gordon Neighbourhood House is located on on the unceded, occupied, ancestral and traditional homelands of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We encourage you to check out each Nations website to learn more about their unique cultures and strong community activism work.

You can read our statement on the discovery at Kamloops HERE. You can read the statement of our governing body, the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC HERE. At the bottom of this blog post we have shared some information and resources for our Indigenous community members who have been impacted by the residential schools system and re-traumatized by the news cycle.

Keep reading for some suggestions on celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, the names of some Indigenous-owned businesses, and some information on how you can take action and join us in a push for accountability and real change.

Celebration Suggestions

Take a look at this great interactive Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) place name map. Users can scroll around and highlight local sites. Most pins on the map have the recorded pronunciation, spelling, and in some spots, photos, stories, articles, archival documents, and videos. This map aims to educate and advocate for the official reclaiming of Indigenous place names in the homelands of Squamish peoples.

Check out the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival for a marketplace, workshops, preformances, and more!

Update your Spotify playlists to include some of these talented Indigenous musicians.

You and your child can celebrate together with these language resources and stories available on Indigenous Storybooks.

Indigenous-Owned Businesses In Vancouver

Spirit Bear Coffee Company

Salmon and Bannock

Iron Dog Books

Skwalwen (tour guides)

River Select (fish & seafood)

Sister Sage (wellness & self care products)

Mr. Bannock

Demand Action Now

This month we are collectively mourning the identification of the unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children at a Kamloops residential school. If you are unfamiliar with the details surrounding this story then you can read more in this Guardian article here.

In the ninety-four Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report numbers seventy-one to seventy-six outline what steps the government needs to take in addressing these missing children and burial sites. The Calls To Action point to the need for a well maintained record of the deaths that occurred at residential schools, the identification of all unmarked burial site locations, families to be informed of the burial site of their loved ones, appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers at grave sites, and reburial in home communities where requested.

These Calls To Action were published in 2015 (six years ago) and it is necessary to implement them now or Indigenous communities will continue to be further traumatized by each slow discovery.

We ask that you consider writing a letter to your local Member of Parliament to demand urgency on these Calls To Action. If you would like to come by Gordon Neighbourhood House we will provide you with a pen, paper, stamped envelope, the address of your local Member of Parliament, and the location of the nearest post box. Check out these Letter Writing Tips and Letter Template.

Orange T-shirts

Orange Shirt Day takes place each year on September 30th. This is a day for honouring residential school survivors and their families, and remembering those who did not make it home. Check out our previous blog post for more information Orange Shirt Day – Every Child Matters.

The Legacy of Hope Foundation have records of some residential school survivor stories for those who want to learn the truth of what happened at these schools.

If you would like to purchase an orange t-shirt while also supporting Indigenous artists and organisations then check out these spots:

Make Vancouver have orange shirts for sale designed by Indigenous artist KC Hall with all proceeds going to the Urban Native Youth Association.

London Drugs have orange shirts for sale online and in stores with 100% of profits from the sale of shirts to the Orange Shirt Society.

Talking To Children

Talking to children about the history and impact of residential schools in Canada is important, but can seem like a daunting task. Check out this Youtube video made by author Monique Gray Smith “Talking to Kids about Residential Schools”. In this video Monique shares tips on both talking to kids about residential schools, but also how to prepare yourself as the adult to have these conversations.

The following Youtube storybook readings can be a helpful resource for parents and caregivers who want to convey these difficult stories to children:

Further Information

Calls for Justice of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report

Help-Lines & Support Resources

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports. The IRSSS can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Saa’ust Centre, brought to life by the Urban Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Committee’s community, is an oasis for families and survivors affected by the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

First Nations Health Authority provides culturally safe and trauma-informed cultural, emotional, and mental health services to Indigenous people in BC.

Kuu-Us Crisis Line Society  provides crisis services for Indigenous people across BC. Adults and Elders can call 250-723-4050 for support; youth can call 250-723-2040. A toll-free number is available at 1-800-588-8717.

At Vancouver Public Library’s Connection to Kith and Kin experts help Indigenous participants search online records for family documents. Searching can be an emotional experience. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society has provided a Resolution Health Support Worker to join the participants during their journey.


Statement: Kamloops Residential School

Our governing body the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC has shared their statement on their website HERE.

To our West End Neighbours and Colleagues:

On behalf of Gordon House, I want to acknowledge the recent discovery of a mass grave of Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

215 children were reported found. This number was an estimate. An updated, likely higher number is expected in the coming weeks. Further discoveries across Canada should be anticipated in coming weeks, months and years.

Residential schools were an assault on the most fundamental principles of humanity. They are formally considered an institution of genocide. They targeted Indigenous peoples by attempting to sever children’s connection with their communities.

And they operated before our own eyes, in plain daylight.

Why didn’t we see what was happening?

I have sought to understand Gordon House’s response to that question. The Association of Neighbourhood Houses of British Columbia – Gordon House included – is committed to supporting families and social justice. We have been in operation for over 125 years. How could an organization with those two commitments fail to notice and speak out about the operation of residential schools?

The ongoing work to answer that question has highlighted numerous indicators of colonial and racist thinking within our own history and movement. It is imperative that we uproot and eliminate any remnants of that thinking in our professional and personal practice, otherwise, we may be blind to present injustices occurring right now.

This journey is not unique to Gordon House. We must look at this together as a community. To start, Gordon House commits to:

1. Complete an audit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ 231 Calls to Justice, and create an organizational Action Plan for any relevant calls.

2. Work with Indigenous and non-Indigenous colleagues to facilitate community dialogue and learning in the West End, with focus on the following topics:

a. A deeper understanding of what it means to be on unceded Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh territory, including what responsibilities we carry while on this territory;

b. Colonialism and anti-Indigenous racism in Canada, both historically and as it manifests today, and how to actively resist those systems today;

c. Allying alongside Indigenous-led movements locally and nationally.

This is where we start, not where we end. All neighbours and colleagues are invited to participate in the conversation. Email welcome@gordonhouse.org if you’d like to get involved.

Our hearts are with survivors and intergenerational survivors of residential schools. Our commitment is to do everything now and into the future to ensure that this atrocious period of Canadian history is finally brought to a close, and that the impact of residential schools is known and never forgotten.

Siobhan Powlowski


Funding Still Available for 83 Small Projects with $500 each!

Neighbours participate in a virtual Reiki project supported with a Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grant.

Do you have an idea for a small project that will make a positive impact in our community? We have funding still available this year to support 83 more small projects with $500 each!

The Neighbourhood Small Grants (NSG) program is a grassroots initiative that helps residents of any age, experience, or background take part in building community. We provide grants up to $500 to neighbours who have small but powerful ideas that will make our community better.

The Neighbourhood Small Grant program is for everyone. We’ve funded projects led by residents as young as ten, in addition to neighbours well into their nineties. Some project Leaders have lived in our community for 30+ years, whereas others have moved here less than a year ago. We believe neighbours are the experts on their community, and we all have ideas on how we can make our community better and more resilient.

Neighbours can apply online in less than an hour, and choose how they would like to spend the funds.

Grants are awarded to projects that: connect and engage residents, share residents’ skills and knowledge within the community, build a sense of ownership and pride, and respect and celebrate diversity.

Examples of past project have included: murals, community gardens, yoga classes, film nights, virtual reiki sessions, dance classes, kids painting projects, apartment building social events… the opportunities are almost endless.

For over a decade Gordon Neighbourhood House has coordinated the program for all residents living on the Downtown Peninsula. In that time, we have supported hundreds of neighbours who have taken steps to improve our neighbourhood—people just like you.

‘The People in Your Neighbourhood’ mural coordinated by local artist Deanna Flinn and funded with a Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grant.


Changes in the Neighbourhood Small Grants Program due to COVID-19
COVID-19 has disrupted most aspects of community life, especially how we interact with one another. For that reason, we are offering two grant options in 2021.

1. Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants
A new grant stream called Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants (R-NSG) has been developed to forge connections and mitigate social isolation during the pandemic. This funding is intended for: safe, virtual, outdoor, and physically-distanced projects.  R-NSG applications are now open and will close when funding runs out.

2. Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grants
We are also offering Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grants for projects that contribute in some way to the City’s Greenest City Action Plan goals. These goals include reducing our carbon footprint, creating zero waste, improving access to nature, clean air and water, growing local food, to name a few. However, your project cannot involve greening a business.

Please contact our Coordinator if you have a specific question, need support completing the application form, require translation assistance, would like something clarified, or simply want to learn more. This is a great opportunity to get involved in your community.

Jim Balakshin, Downtown Peninsula Program Coordinator
Neighbourhood Small Grants Program
jim@gordonhouse.org
(604) 683-2554


Eid Mubarak!

The religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the “Festival of Breaking Fast,” is also known as Lesser Eid or simply Eid. The festival can last one to three days marking the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. During Ramadan, Muslims don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sundown while also engaging in prayer, reflection, and charity.

In Canada, Eid begins Wednesday at sunset and ends Thursday evening.

Eid al-Fitr is an important time of celebration for Muslims as they engage in special prayer, visit and embrace loved ones, exchange gifts and sweets, as well as greet others with “Eid Mubarak,” which means “Blessed Eid.” However, it is the second year COVID-19 precautions are impacting how Eid is celebrated.  

Typically, Eid morning prayers are held at mosques or outdoors with large gatherings. Indoor religious gatherings are currently suspended in B.C. while outdoor gatherings can still take place, with conditions.

While there are still some barriers to celebrating, there are also virtual gatherings hosted on Thursday. Check out Muslim Link Vancouver and New Muslim Converts Support to learn more.

The date of Eid changes year to year because the Islamic calendar is a lunar one, with each month starting when the waxing moon is seen. Eid al-Fitr is determined by the first sighting of the new crescent moon for the Islamic calendar month of Shawaal.

It is also the first of two Eids, with the second, Eid al-Adha, coming later in the year and lasting longer.  

Eid is a national holiday in many countries with large Muslim populations. While celebrations vary around the world, Muslims are also encouraged to practise and seek forgiveness.


Mental Health Week 2021

Mental Health Week (May 3-9th, 2021) 

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is marking its 69th annual Mental Health Week between May 3rd to May 9th this year. Check out the Mental Health Week website and the 2021 tagline – “#GetReal about how you feel. Name it, don’t numb it.”

To commemorate Mental Health Week we wanted to share with you some general information on mental illness and some tools for creating attainable self-care goals. You can practice these skills for yourself for yourself, or you can share these skills with your friends and family. 

What is mental illness? 

Mental illnesses, or ‘mental health disorders’, are conditions that affect your mental wellbeing. This includes an impact on such things as your cognition, your thought patterns, your behaviours, your feelings, and your mood. These symptoms can impact your day-to-day life. Mental illnesses are just like physical illnesses; except unlike broken bones other people cannot easily see your mental health. 

There is a lot of good information and research available on mental health yet despite this there still remains a prevalence of discrimination, misunderstanding, and even fear of mental illnesses. This could be as a result of people not really understanding mental illness, an inability of people to recognize poor mental health in others, or even because many people simply do not know enough about caring for their mental health. Unfortunately this stigma and discrimination prevents people from seeking supports from those around them and medical professionals.  

Examples of mental illnesses are: anxiety disorder, depression and bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia to name a few. 

Mental illnesses can be diagnosed by a medical professional and treated or managed with the use of medication. 

Of course many people do experience and feel anxiety and depression at certain points in their life without being clinically diagnosed. Others will be diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety because their daily lives are being significantly impacted by their symptoms.   

Who could be affected by mental illnesses? 

Everyone!  

Many people will experience mental illnesses at some point in their lives, or have someone in their life (family member, friends, neighbour, or coworker) who is struggling.  

Mental illness can affect anyone no matter what their education, gender, age, cultural backgrounds, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.  

Why do some struggle with mental illnesses? 

There are many factors that could result in someone experiencing a mental illness. Examples include environment, personality, genetics, and biology.

What can you do about it? 

If you are struggling with mental illness the first step you might want to consider is reaching out to your doctor. Some family doctors know a lot about mental illnesses and the medications available. You might also be referred to a psychiatrist who is specialized in mental illnesses.  

You could also reach out to any other mental health professional, such as a counsellor, to talk about your struggles. They may be able to work with you to develop coping tools.  

If someone close to you is struggling with mental illness then you may feel helpless and unable to support them. The best way to offer support is to talk to them and actively listen.  You can also help them to look for the mental health resources that they may want to access. Many organizations cannot accept 3rd party referrals for adults because of confidentiality, but you can help them to identify what services are out there.  

How to manage your mental health

Talk about how you feel. Notice how you feel. Acknowledge your feelings. Whatever you might be feeling is totally okay. If you are someone who tends to minimize or dismiss your feelings and emotions then it can be helpful to start noticing and recognizing which emotions you are feeling (you can Google feeling faces and use it as a guide). If you are someone who notices bodily senses (such as tightness in the chest) it can be helpful to know that these sensations are also tied to your emotions and feelings and start to recognize this in yourself.  

You may find it easier to name and recognize some emotions over others. That is totally okay. Some of the emotions and feelings you are experiencing you might not even have a word to describe. That is totally okay. Whatever you might be feeling and noticing, they are all your emotions.  

You might want to find ways to express and process some emotions, such as anger, constructively and in a healthy way.  

All of your emotions and feelings are valuable and important. So please, practice self-care. 

Self-care is an important aspect of caring for yourself and meeting your needs. Engaging in self-care regularly will help you to manage your stress and anxiety. It is also important that you are well first before you can successfully care for others.  

Self-care means doing something that brings a smile to your face and joy into your heart. Examples of self-care would be: walking, running, going to the gym/working out, reading, listening to music, watching movies, taking a bath, meditation, gardening, and the list goes on. As many tools as you can develop the better. Variations of self-care would be very useful so that you can pick and choose depending on your mood, needs, and time availability. 

Practicing self-care isn’t easy, especially if it is not your regular practice. So start with something small and make sure it is doable, attainable, and concrete. For example, instead of planning to do a certain activity every day, make a plan to do self-care 3-5 minutes once or twice a week. Start small and make a habit of it. Once you feel confident with your new habit, then you can add a few more and stick with it.

Once you start to recharge your battery you may begin to notice certain situations feel less stressful than before. You might notice you feel less stressed. You might even notice your anxiety is manageable.  

Take good care of your mental health regularly in the same way that you would take care of yourself physically. 

Counselling Program offers free short-term counselling services for those who would like to work on anxiety, depression, grief, life transition to name a few. We are currently offering services in English, Farsi, and Japanese (please mention in your email if you are seeking a language specific service). We are currently developing a group counselling. For more information, please keep your eyes on our Facebook. If you are interested in being placed on the waitlist, please email us at counselling@gordonhouse.org 

References: 

Mental Health Week: Canada Mental Health Association

Fast facts about mental illness: Canada Mental Health Association

Resources: 

Here to help

BounchBack 

Anxiety Canada

Community mental health services: Vancouver Coastal Health


Cooking With UBC Students

During March we teamed up with ‘UBC Reading Week‘ which is an opportunity for students to learn from and share their skills with community organizations.

Three students were placed at Gordon Neighbourhood House where they planned and hosted a vegetarian cook-a-long for our community members. All ingredients were purchased for participants ahead of time and the group prepared tofu ramen with salad rolls. Recipes below!

Ramen with Tofu

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • Extra firm tofu packet
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 packages of instant ramen
  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • 4 green onions
  • (optional – for extra flavour!) 2 packets of Miso soup packets

Steps:

1. Drain the tofu and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.

2. Add the water, vegetable broth, and soup base of the instant ramen packets to a small sauce pot. (optional: can add miso soup packets here too!). Whisk until the soup bases (and miso) have been dissolved.

3. Add the cubed tofu to the pot, place a lid on top, and bring it up to a boil over high heat.

4. Once boiling, add the instant ramen noodles. Boil for one to two minutes, or just until the noodles begin to soften and pull loose from each other.

5. Add four handfuls of fresh spinach and stir it into the hot broth until wilted. The noodles will finish cooking as the spinach wilts.

6. Slice the green onions and sprinkle over top of the ramen just before serving.

Veggie Salad Rolls

Ingredients (for 8 rolls):

  • Warm water
  • 8 rice paper wrappers
  • 1 cup white mushrooms
  • 2 medium carrots
  • ½ english cucumber
  • 1 cup red cabbage
  • ½ yellow bell pepper

Steps:

1. Slice mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, and bell peppers.

2. Fill a medium shallow bowl with warm water and set near your work station.

3. Dip a rice paper wrapper in the warm water for a few seconds, submerging completely. Remove and lay flat on a smooth, clean surface, such as a plate.

4. Add a combination of sliced mushrooms, sliced carrots, sliced cucumber, sliced cabbage, and sliced bell pepper to the middle of the wrapper. Be careful not to overfill, or rolling it will become difficult!

5. Fold both sides of the rice paper over the vegetables to secure.

6. Lift the bottom edge of the rice paper and carefully fold it over the top of the vegetables, tucking it under on the other side, then gently roll until the vegetables are completely covered and the top edge of the wrapper adheres to the spring roll.

7. Set the spring roll aside and cover with a damp paper towel to keep fresh while you repeat with the remaining ingredients. Once you’ve finished making the spring rolls, chill in the fridge.

OPTIONAL SAUCES BELOW: You can also make sauces for dipping the salad rolls to further enjoy with the food!

Peanut sauce:

  • ¼ cup natural peanut butter
  • ½ teaspoon ginger, minced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup or another liquid sweetener 
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Whisk until combined.

Fish sauce:

Add water, sugar, lemon juice, and fish sauce. Whisk until combined. Can top with garlic cloves too! It’s 2-2-6(?). 2 tablespoons of fish sauce with 2 tablespoons of sugar, then roughly 6 tablespoons of water but you adjust here if the taste is too strong = add more… Then a squeeze of lemon/lime and walah. I hope that helps! 


How would you improve our community with $500?

Participants enjoy a resident-led, virtual Reiki workshop funded by a Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grant.

Do you have a small project idea that could make a positive impact in our community? Online applications are now open for Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants and Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grants!

The Neighbourhood Small Grants (NSG) program is a grassroots initiative that helps residents of any age, experience, or background take part in building community. We provide grants up to $500 to neighbours who have small but powerful ideas that will make our community better.

For over a decade Gordon Neighbourhood House has coordinated the program for all residents living on the Downtown Peninsula. In that time, we have supported hundreds of neighbours who have taken steps to improve our neighbourhood—people just like you.

‘The People in Your Neighbourhood’ mural coordinated by local artist Deanna Flinn and funded with a Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grant.

Grants are awarded to projects that: connect and engage residents, share residents’ skills and knowledge within the community, build a sense of ownership and pride, and respect and celebrate diversity.

Changes in the Neighbourhood Small Grants Program due to COVID-19
COVID-19 has disrupted most aspects of community life, especially how we interact with one another. Many projects that we previously funded (condo/apartment building social parties, craft workshops, block parties, etc.) are temporarily not possible due to Provincial Health Orders.

For that reason, we are offering two grant options in 2021.

1. Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants
A new grant stream called Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants (R-NSG) has been developed to forge connections and mitigate social isolation during the pandemic. This funding is intended for: safe, virtual, outdoor, and physically-distanced projects. Online R-NSG applications are now open and close when funding runs out.

2. Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grants
We are also offering Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grants for projects that contribute in some way to the City’s Greenest City Action Plan goals. These goals include reducing our carbon footprint, creating zero waste, improving access to nature, clean air and water, growing local food, to name a few. However, your project cannot involve greening a business.

This Neighbourhood Small Grant program is for everyone. We’ve funded projects led by residents as young as ten, in addition to neighbours well into their nineties. Some project Leaders have lived in our community for 30+ years, whereas others have moved here less than a year ago. We believe neighbours are the experts on their community, and we all have ideas on how we can make our community better and more resilient.

Please contact our Coordinator if you have a specific question, need support completing the application form, require translation assistance, would like something clarified, or simply want to learn more. This is a great opportunity to get involved in your community.

Jim Balakshin, Downtown Peninsula Program Coordinator
Neighbourhood Small Grants Program
jim@gordonhouse.org
(604) 683-2554


Planter Box Encourages Neighbours to Rethink Edible Native Plants

Over the winter months you may have noticed a new planter box with perennial plants and signage in front of Gordon Neighbourhood House. The project was created by West End neighbour Jesse Orr. Jesse is a multidisciplinary artist, farmer, gardener, and is engaged in community activism and social justice. Jesse volunteers with Gordon Neighbourhood House through our Young Ideas group.

The planter originated in the summer of 2020 as ‘Invite The Bees’, an installation of summer flowering native plants for the Vines Art Festival. After the success of the flowering plants installation, Jesse was keen to extend the project into the winter months, this time connecting native plants and landscaping to local food systems.

For thousands of years Indigenous people have thrived on locally-sourced ingredients, yet wider discussions around food security and local food systems tend to focus on Western European-centric diets. This narrow approach excludes Indigenous societies and ignores the ecological benefits of growing and eating native plants, which tend to use fewer resources and are more beneficial overall for other organisms.

Jesse’s aim is to combine art with the natural world in an interactive way that encourages neighbours to rethink native plants species in relation to their diet and gardens. She hopes that neighbours will taste the berries, learn the plant names, identify characteristics of these native species, and ultimately inspire others to consider introducing these plants into their gardens and planter boxes.

I’m interested in local food for greater food security and for a lower carbon footprint in agriculture, but that conversation often focuses only on a Western diet. I’m learning that what shouldn’t be forgotten is the fact that the pre-colonial ecology of this area was in itself a sustainable foodscape, shaped by local people, and that is a very different way of eating than mainstream agriculture provides. The work of Dawn Morrison and the Indigenous Food Systems Network over decades has done a lot to bring attention to this colonial frame which tends to dominate the food systems topic.” – Jesse Orr

Further Resources:

The Environmental Youth Alliance is doing a lot of cool work around appreciating local plants (many which are commonly called weeds) and ecology. Follow the link to find out more about this project – Re-wilding Vancouver.

Fraser Valley Conservancy has created a major resource that provides a step by step guide to creating your own backyard eco-system.

Check out this news article about gardening with local food-bearing plants.

Dawn Morrison of the Indigenous Food Systems Network, along with a panel of experts, partnered with UBC to host a webinar titled ‘Decolonizing the Land and Food Systems’ available to view here.

First We Eat is a documentary about a family living in Dawson City, Yukon on the traditional territory of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. This family embarks on a year long goal of eating only locally sourced food, and share what they learned in the process such as tips on foraging, recipes, and other interesting information.

Taste the berries!

All neighbours are invited to come by and check out this installation. Please be mindful of physical distancing, mask wearing, and Honourable Harvest Teachings, as the plants are for the whole community to enjoy and learn from.

Please reach out if you are interested in obtaining one of these plants for your own garden, local vendors include Art’s Nursery and Figaro’s Garden.

Bunchberry (edible berries)

Licorice Fern (edible & medicinal)

Oval-Leaved Blueberry (edible berries)

Salal (edible berries)


Reiki Fosters Virtual Community During Pandemic

Participants Enjoy a Virtual Reiki Session

Shehbaz Ahmad lives in the West End, and as trained Reiki Master wanted to share his skills and passion with the community. Last year Ahmad received $500 in funding from a Neighbourhood Small Grant to host his resident-led Reiki sessions at Gordon Neighbourhood House.

The classes were very popular, however when COVID-19 first emerged it seemed unlikely that his initiative could continue. That is, until one participant encouraged him to host the sessions online. He was skeptical at first, however the success of the online sessions surprised even the Reiki Master himself.

Reiki is a form of alternative energy healing that originated in Japan. Practitioners frequently use a technique called palm healing through which a “universal energy” is said to be transferred through the palms of the practitioner to the patient in order to encourage wellness. Many Reiki participants experience benefits similar to meditation including: reduced stress, increasing self-awareness, refocusing on the present, and relaxation.

Shehbaz first started hosting his classes in 2020. As the demand for the free Reiki sessions grew, Ahmad decided to offer weekly sessions.

“Our sessions continued every week at Gordon Neighbourhood House until the pandemic,” recalled Shehbaz, “then one of the participants called me and said is there a chance we could continue our Reiki sessions online. I decided to give it a go and everyone was so happy to stay connected during the pandemic.”

Since hosting the sessions online, the group has flourished and now has close to 50 participants, many more than could be accommodated at his in-person sessions.

“We now call it our Joyful Reiki family,” said Ahmad, “What started with seed money of $500 from a Neighbourhood Small Grant, has now become a strong tree. I remember the first day when I was wondering if even one person show up. Now we have a regular virtual group in the West End, and people joining us from as far away as Germany.”

The group has been extremely beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I found many friends and have heard many heart-warming experiences from our community on how Reiki has helped them deal with stress and anxiety during these challenging times. Participants have reported sleeping better, having clarity of mind, emotional resilience, more confidence, and improved decision-making,” said Ahmad.

Birdeen Seltzer lives in the neighbourhood, and had a similar experience.

“Joyful Reiki Sundays have been an excellent way to stay connected with the West End Community during this challenging time,” explained Seltzer, “To share in the spiritual nature of Reiki with like-minded people has been integral in navigating the pandemic.”

The ‘tree’ that Shehbaz started, is establishing its roots as well. Several participants have decided to learn Reiki, and have become Reiki Masters themselves. Two members of the group now regularly volunteer and lead sessions when he is unavailable.

“I thoroughly enjoy volunteering…,” stated Ahmad, “I found that experience very fulfilling, enriching and enlightening. I feel delighted to see participants grow, and start their own wellness journey. The feeling of being part of a Reiki family is priceless.”

If you are interested in joining the Joyful Reiki group, the classes take place every Sunday at 11:00am for 1.5 hours. The sessions feature deep Reiki relaxation and guided mediation. Email hello@dervesh.ca for more information.

The Neighbourhood Small Grants program supports resident-led projects with up to $500 in funding. Gordon Neighbourhood House coordinates the program for all neighbours on the downtown peninsula (West End, Yaletown, Coal Harbour, Downtown South, Central Business District). Applications are now open for a new grant stream called Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants which supports safe, distanced, and virtual projects. For more information, visit the NSG website, or email jim@gordonhouse.org.