OASIS Design Gathering #2 – November 17, 2018

We had our second OASIS design gathering on Saturday, November 17th at the Cabbagetown Youth Centre. We started the day with lunch, and a fun ice-breaking word association activity to get our minds thinking about important issues and our bodies warmed up to work. We built on the discussions from the first design meeting by splitting into small groups to share our thoughts on four specific areas: bulk buying food buying, food growing, food processing and storage, and waste and repurposing. All of the groups completed a “Flourishing Cities Design Canvas”, where we focused on both the short and long-term necessities for food security and resiliency in the community.

There were great dialogues happening that allowed for connections to be made between residents, community partners, and farming representatives that helped us generate a more specific and robust plan for OASIS. At the end of the day, everyone reported back so that all of the attendants could share what they have accomplished, and learn from the expertise of the other focus groups. Each group came up with three “Action Steps” that can be implemented right away to make inroads into achieving our goals for OASIS. The enthusiasm in the room was electric, and everyone was able to come together to collectively resolve important community issues. Thank you to everyone who was able to attend, share, listen, and help make a difference!

 

You can find more pictures of the event here.

Stayed tune for our third design gathering happening in early January!

Written by: Dani T.

Ward 13 Candidates Forum Oct 17, 2018

St James Town Community Co-op and CREW hosted a candidates forum on Community Resilience and Emergency Planning for ward 13 city council candidates on Oct 17th, 2018 at the Church of St. Peter and St. Simon in St. James Town. We invited all the candidates who were running for councillor to the forum and we had five questions prepared in advance for the candidates to answer.

At the forum, the candidates who showed up were: Jon Callegher, Megann Willson, Rob Wolvin, Walied Khogali Ali, Gladys Larbie, Tim Gordanier, George Smitherman, Richard Forget, and Jordan Stone while Lucy Triosi sent her apologies. We kicked off the evening with snacks and an intro statement from each candidate before we moved onto the questions. There were moments of tension and candidates also expressed frustration that the incumbent candidates were not present at the forum. At the same time, we had insightful conversations and thoughts from candidates on what community resilience looks like to them and how to best prepare for emergency situations in St. James Town.

We had some time at the end of the evening for questions from the audience and the questions that came up included:

  1. How would you ensure that you are accessible to all residents regardless of status?
  2. How will you raise revenue for the projects you want to create?
  3. People are dying from overdoses in the community, what will you do to address this issue?
  4. Do you have a plan of action to get to know your community?

We’re thankful that the candidates had a chance to join us on this evening to share their ideas and how they want to engage these important topics. We’re also glad that people in the community want to engage in these discussion and demand that our candidates work for them and represent them well.

You can find photos of the event here.

You can find a live tweet thread of the debate here covered by Justin Chatwin

Design Gathering #1 – Oct 13

 

We had our first OASIS design gathering last Saturday, Oct 13 at the Wellesley Community Centre! Over 30 residents and participants came out to share their ideas and vision what they want OASIS to look like in stage 1 and specifically how they envision a community kitchen and a food storage unit. We had great conversations and a delicious lunch to keep us going; there was also a kids group where youth got a chance to ask pertinent questions for the project and present a solid vision of what they wanted to see. The kids’ presentation definitely had the adults in the room thinking and chuckling.

The energy in the room was amazing and every table was buzzing with conversation and chatter. This is what we want to encourage in the community: people gathering to talk about important issues and solutions and meeting other folks in the community.We can’t wait for the smaller laser groups, set up through this design gathering, to work on more detailed aspects of the projects and bring more focus and expertise to the table. Our next design gathering is happening on Nov. 10 and allies are invited to join residents at this stage. Keep in touch to hear about other events and progress on OASIS coming up!

Check out more photos from the gathering from our Facebook album here.

Don Valley Walk August 4th 2018

On Saturday August 3rd the St. James Town Community Co-op led a plant identification walk through the lower Don Valley. We were fortunate to be joined by knowledgeable and enthusiastic community members who shared their own perspectives and expertise to our walk. Among the plants we identified were Jewelweed, which can be used to treat rashes and irritations; Japanese Knotweed, a hardy invasive plant that acts as a cleanser for the liver, kidneys, and digestive tracts; and Wild Grape Vine, a native plant that can strangle and kill trees if left to grow without human stewardship. We also had informative discussion on the nuances of removing invasive species, particularly whether or not invasive species should be taken out of an ecosystem if they fill their ecological niche more effectively than their native counterpart. We ended the walk with a visit to the Evergreen Brickworks, and participants were excited to learn that that there would be more walks to come!

Check out images here: https://www.facebook.com/sjtcoop/posts/1888596687899942

Tour of Naadmaadgit Ki (NKG)

Last Saturday, we went on a tour of the lands that Naadmaadgit Ki Group is taking care of near the Humber River. We all met at Sherbourne St and took the TTC together to Jane and Eglington to meet our guide, Doug, and his friend, Aaron, for the tour.

 

Although our group was small — no more than 8 people — it happened to be the perfect size for the tour, down to to number of shovels that Doug brought with him. Fortunately, the weather was also cooperating with us that day and held off on both rain and sun to give us a comfortable setting for a tour and some restoration work.

 

As we walked through the land, Doug and Aaron talked about their indigenous relationship to the land, pointed out all kinds of useful information about the plants around us, and encouraged us to think about our own relations to land and nature. At one point, Doug told us to imagine that the whole area is a garden! We also got a chance to help out by removing some invasive common reeds that are threatening to engulf the side of the Humber River banks; it was hard work but rewarding as we looked back at what we had accomplished in over 30mins time.

 

Here are a few reflections from some participants on the tour:

 

“When I saw the work that NKG was doing it seemed like an overwhelming task. My most significant moment was when we were clearing an invasive grass species beside the Humber River. I think I might have helped pull out ten stalks.  Our guide, Doug, was appreciative of the contributions we had made.  I am sure that I did very little!  As I got to know more about the vision of the group for the area, it made me realize that indeed, this was a perfect metaphor for the Oasis Community Food Hub.  In order to have the endurance and perseverance, one must be energized by a vision.  It was not just about pulling out the invasive weeds beside the river bank but it is seeing the vision of what the place could be for the indigenous peoples in the future.  Similarly, one could easily get discouraged if nothing seems to be happening in the accomplishment of an Oasis Community Food Hub but the vision must inspire a persistent action.” – Petite

 

“The NKG trip was an eye-opener. I realized that parts of many plants can serve as food and are available for consumption if one knows how to recognize and cook them. Some of them are also medicinal. Such knowledge is either not mainstream, or has been lost. Hence people resort to the easily available, and sometimes unhealthy, food. In a similar vein, immigrants who make a new country their home have no option other than consuming food that is easily available. This unavailability of foods that gave them comfort and happiness in their country of  origin sets in an additional stressor to their otherwise burdened lives.. OASIS in St. Jamestown has this great potential of growing, acquiring and storing foods that are culture specific and heartwarming thus lending peace of mind and health to the otherwise stressed community.” – Darryl

 

“I’m an elementary school teacher. I’ve always been keen on inspiring my students with a love for nature. At the tour of NKG, however, I realized that my own enthusiasm for nature is very shallow. Having joined a few other nature walks, I was expecting no more than recognizing plants, their uses as food and medicine or their potential harms to humans and to the ecosystem. We did precisely that, but the experience left a much more impactful impression in me: no one should be owners but caretakers of land. We have the responsibility to interact with, to use, and to look after the plants and other living things on the land. When Doug, our tour leader, explained to us his family’s indigenous tradition and practice of burying babies’ placentas in the land, I realized how central the land is to his identity, his history, and his worldview. The trip has kindled in me a desire to understand myself as a person and as a teacher through this land I’m currently living on. ” – Enosh

 

“It was a wonderful learning experience to be out in nature with Doug and Aaron from NKG. I learnt so much about the different plants growing in Toronto, both native and invasive species. Other than enhancing my ecological and botanical knowledge, the experience was also very enlightening and rejuvenating as I was able to really connect with nature and reflect upon our place in the larger scheme of things, in the past, present, and future.” – Becky

 

As these reflections show, all of us are really appreciative of being given the opportunity to learn from and connect with the NKG. It gave many of us food for thought and it was an encouragement as well to see and be a small of their great vision.

 

                  

Dinner and Social on July 20th 2018

We had a great time at the dinner and social on Wednesday evening and I love that we had a lot of people come out to the event. It was even better to hear that many people that we met through our weekly outreach attended! Although we had a few technical difficulties at the beginning, we managed to get started without a hitch.

Josephine presented our new powerpoint on the OASIS community food hub project we’re trying to get off the ground and had a discussion on the importance of involving indigenous people in the project. People also had a chance to have discussions and brainstorm what clean and healthy food means to them.

During the dinner prepared by our amazing cook, Petra, the team got to chat with people who came to the social dinner about their thoughts on the project and just getting to know people in the neighbourhood. I saw many enthusiastic conversation and was delighted to see that a broad range of people were engaged with our project.

I’m glad that we had an opportunity to host a dinner social to connect with people over healthy and delicious food. I’m even more excited that there were fruitful conversations about the community food hub and genuinely interested people who are keen to get involved!

– Yi Fan

Rainy Farm Visit to Black Farmers’ Collective

This past Sunday (24th June), the co-op and community members took a trip to Milton to visit the Black Farmers Collective. Amidst the rain and mud, we walked through the farm and saw the hard work of the collective. The farmers exhibited the importance of growing locally farmed and sustainable food. Cabbage, leeks, beets, tomato, fennel, calaloo, and onion are just a few of the produce grown on the land showing that it is possible, feasible, and necessary to grow food within a urban area.

Chatting to the farmers and listening to them speak on food issues made us realise that even within our city of Toronto, food security is a serious issue. In particle, it is an issue that requires us to work, and collaborate together to fight the socioeconomic issues created by global corporations.

We must change food system from one where it’s easy and convenient to eat unhealthy fast food toward one where everyone is able to afford and access good clean local food. It is up to us to be resilient and reach out to our local farmers and representatives to foster sustainable community development by supporting local farming, both in the urban city of Toronto and in rural areas. Regardless of class or background, we all need healthy and affordable food, no one can dispute this.

Thank you to the Black Farmers’ Collective for giving us such an enriching and inspiring visit. We look forward to our next visit where we will help farm!

-Bianca C.

We’re hiring for a 2018 Summer Student!

Get excited because we’ve gotten a Canada Summer Student Grant to hire an Events Coordinator! Please see the below for details:

 

Events Coordinator – Low Income Families Together

Start Date: June 18th  for 7 weeks, 30 hours/wk

Salary: $14.00/hr

 

We are looking for a highly motivated individual to run our Summer Events. This position supports the St. James Town Community Co-operative and OASIS Food Hub focused on climate resilient food, water, and waste solutions in a high-rise and predominantly newcomer downtown community. The events you will be coordinating support the development of an innovative food hub, and engage community members in healthy food and farms.

Submit Resume and Cover Letter To: info@lift.to  by June 4th.

 

Job Responsibilities:

–       Coordinate in-community (St. James Town) and off-site events including farm tours, picnics, and community consultations

–       Be present for all events, including some weekend and evening events

–       Work with Community Engagement Staff and Volunteers to plan outreach and outreach materials (flyers)

 

Skills:

–       Work well with a team

–       Self-motivated, good at independent tasks

–       Communication skills

–       Event management

–       Coordinating teams and volunteers

–       Multiple languages is an advantage

–       Prefer candidates with a passion for, and experience in, climate change resilient food systems and/or human rights and community building

 

Requirements:

–       This is a Canada Summer Job – you must be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident between 16-29 years old

–       This position is only open to current post-secondary or graduate students (meaning you have finished your Winter/Spring semester and are planning on returning to school in September).

–       Preference to St. James Town residents

–       Must have experience in event coordination

–       Must have experience working with diverse communities

 

Annual General Meetings Notes March 24th

Notes from St. Jamestown Community Coop
Agenda
1) Report on OASIS and general update
2) Committee Overview
3) Board Elections
4) CREW presentation by Lydia
5) OASIS Design Pilot Project Sharrae’s video
7) UPLIFT Timebank discussion

Josephine gave a report on the Co-ops activities in 2017 and progress on the OASIS project including the City Grant for developing a design for OASIS involving St James Town residents. Darryl DSouza was introduced as the project manager for the design project. Josephine and Roxy outlined the basic functions of the board as well as brief profiles of the board members who were standing for re-election. An invitation to join was the board was offered, Darryl said he would think about it.

Fred moved to elect the board as it currently stood and adding Samantha Chow who has been volunteering with the co-op for two years.

Roxy seconded the motion.

All ten present members of the coop voted to pass the motion. There were no dissenters.

A discussion of TCHC and the City plan followed, during which Josephine and Roxy outlined how the city plan is claiming the idea of using shipping containers as their own and is now “inviting” us to the table with Community Corner and Community Matters.

Lydia then gave an outline of the work CREW is doing in the neighborhood
She discussed the Lighthouse Project and its goals of creating resiliency hubs
It uses funding from Trilium

The four main points of the Lighthouse Project are:

Mapping Physical Facilities (usable spaces and resources)
Mapping residences’ skill-sets (an opportunity to promote and develop the Timebank)
Mapping Community Organizations
Mapping Community programs and services

Also included was a discussion of strategies to find community leaders and find positions for them. This would involve resident to resident training in order to build capacity. Each complex would have 8-20 community champions who would report to a Core Group of 10-20 residences.
They would hold workshops on emergency preparedness for any weather.

Using surveys and other outreach tools, CREW has determined that Food Security is a central concern for the residences of St. Jamestown. It serves to unite people in the community. Nutritious food is unaffordable and it is difficult to stock food on a low income. Josephine discussed the utility of dehydrating food for later use.

Lydia outlined how the next steps would be to create a Steering Committee and on April 9th the Lighthouse Project will establish a working group.

Amal shared her story of experiencing racism and Islamophobia from people working for community corner

Roxy then outlined the basics of our Timebank, including how timebanks operate in 50 different countries. Turning people’s time/service into credits which they can exchange for other services. The Timebank allows us to show potential funders how much value (in terms of pay per hour). This system eliminates debt, in fact one’s needs generate wealth for others.

Fred and Gord then shared concerns about how alternative economies like timebanks have existed in the past and that they have always failed. Josephine responded that blockchain technology is key to the global successes of timebanks. Roxy explained how the basics of blockchain software allows data to be processed and disseminated through a decentralized system of nodes rather than a single institution.

Sharrae then showed the video she has been working on for the OASIS Pilot project and it was met with applause!

Petra worked tirelessly in the kitchen along with Sirron to make an incredible meal for us.

Thanks to everyone for a successful AGM.

First Annual General Meeting on Sunday December 18

We will be having our first Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Sunday December 18, 2016 to formally launch our first official co-op board and vote on all the major decisions to firmly establish the co-op. It will take place on Sunday, December 18th from 1-4 pm at 225 Wellesley Street E (YSM) with a light lunch included. There will also be a Dinner/Dance party from 4:30 -8pm afterwards.

Some of the things that will be covered at the AGM are:
  1. elect the first official board of the co-op,*
  2. approve our mission statement and constitution of basic bylaws,*
  3. adopt the membership roles and responsibilities,*
  4. get your membership card and time bank account
  5. choose and join a working group to help develop the co-op
The AGM will launch our co-op so we can develop projects like the OASIS foodhub and apply for funding. MPP Glen Murray and staff are now assisting us to get the funding we need for OASIS.
As a co-op member, you have the right to run for a board member position and vote for board members at this general annual meeting, as well as vote on all major decisions. Only members can vote at the AGM, you will be given a voting card once you have arrived. Please make sure to bring your membership card if you have it. If you are not a co-op member, you can become one at the co-op by filling out some forms that we will provide on that day. You can also attend the co-op as a member of the general public, but you will not be able to vote or run for a board member position.
If you want to have more information, please contact us and we will answer your questions. We hope to see you there!