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


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.


Virtual Art Class Connects Strangers

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 jim@gordonhouse.org.


Pelmeni and Pierogi Making Workshop

nsg-pelmeni-min

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.

nsg-pelmeni5

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.

nsg-pelmeni2-min

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!

nsg-pelmeni4-min

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.