Blog #3: The Peaks and Valleys of Our Community Project

Hello from Group 13!

Weekly Objectives and Achievements

Community work is rewarding but sometimes the reality of working with community members on busy schedules is that progress takes time! Since our last blog post, our project has hit a bit of a lull. We know the next steps we need to take, but coordinating our busy schedules as students with the busy schedules of our Gordon Neighborhood House community partners has proved to sometimes be quite difficult! By experiencing this, we are realizing some realities of working in communities. We are not always the priority of this busy neighborhood house, and that is just fine! This just means that we must take initiative to go the extra mile and be prepared with ideas, information and questions in order to have productive meetings when we do find the time to meet!

However, we anticipate things to pick up soon! We are set to meet with Aaron who heads the Rainbow Soup Social on Thursday, March 16th to create a recipe template as well as collect some of the recipes used for the Thursday Night Rainbow Social events. The Rainbow Soup Kitchen provides the soup that is served in the free cafe at the Food Hub on Fridays. We are quite excited about this meeting, as it means that we can finally get started creating our book! Over our time at GNH, we have noticed an interest in the inner workings of these soups. This will hopefully allow for a point of interest in our recipe book and handouts. Our objectives for the next couple weeks are to nail down the format that our book will take and begin to collect recipes and stories to include! We also hope to create a recipe template that the Gordon Neighborhood House can easily use to continue this project in the future. Lastly, we hope to gain a better understanding of the state of food literacy in Vancouver’s West End, what needs to be done to address any deficits in food literacy, and what is currently being done to address these needs.

We have had some small victories and learned some new skills while working on our CBEL project. One of these small victories was finally coming up with a project that everyone involved felt was needed and important! Though it took a long time to nail down our project and come up with the idea of creating a cookbook that can be continued by members of and visitors too GNH is something that everyone felt would be beneficial, not only to the Food Hub program but also to every food-related program that GNH facilitates. As a group, we have learned skills of collaboration amongst ourselves as well as with members of the community who are on an entirely different timeline. We have also learned skills of documenting our processes in creating this project. This has been both through our blog posts as well as keeping each other informed through google docs and emails when we do work on our project independent of each other. This documentation has proved to be very useful when we need to backtrack and take another look at a part of our project that might need improvement!

Moments of Significant Change Workshop Reflection

In this week’s tutorial, we had the opportunity to understand and reflect on our moments of significant change. We used graphs and felt-tipped pens in order to better grasp our individual emotional responses to moments of significance in our project over time, and to represent our newly skills acquired over time. This information was represented in two different graphs.

 Graph 1

The x-axis was used to chart the passing of time over the semester, and included specific events and tasks. The y-axis featured three faces that were meant to express our emotions.

This graph enabled each group member to communicate their emotions regarding specific tasks and events in the project using a visual tool as a segue into conversation. We were able to chart our emotions, compare them and discuss our reasoning. This allowed us to have open and honest conversations regarding our individual levels of enthusiasm and to graph our projected emotions in the future. Each group member is represented by a different color. This visual representation of our emotions ended up being quite beautiful. It revealed a colorful array of the peaks and valleys of our journey together. It shows that at a given time, one group member might be totally down in the dumps, while another group member can be so full of enthusiasm and excitement for the project that they are able to elevate others and keep the project afloat. This workshop allowed us to visualize the benefits of working collaboratively, showing our divergent strengths and weaknesses.

The ups and downs of our process reminded us of the realities of working in a community. This is a university project and in a way, is only practice for our careers in food work in the future, and it is important that we are aware of the potential road blocks and times of discouragement that we will face in the future. We also must keep in mind that if we are persistent, we will overcome these obstacles and have positive outcomes. This quote from Shulman reflects this: “In professional education, it is insufficient to learn for the sake of knowledge and understanding alone; one learns in order to engage in practice… But a true professional does not merely practice: he or she performs with a sense of personal and social responsibility” (Shulman, 2005). We are grateful for the opportunity to engage in this practicing of knowledge and social responsibility in a real-world setting and are grateful for what the ups and downs of the process are teaching us!

Graph 2

 

The second graph reveals two skills that we have acquired while working with Gordon Neighbourhood House (y-axis) and their development over time (x-axis). Each of the skills are color coded. Green represents our knowledge of Asset-based community development, and pink represents our knowledge of food literacy in the West end (Mathie & Cunningham, 2003). Both skills have gradually increased over time through the work with our community partners. During this project, we have experienced that there is only so much we can learn through articles and reports. Spending time volunteering at the Food Hub and meeting community members, employees, and volunteers has proven invaluable to our understanding of the assets that this program has in place. It turns out these assets are infinite and continuously generative! Being immersed in such a vibrant community with so many assets has made it difficult to find our place and purpose in the space. What could we possibly bring that they don’t already have? Additionally, our knowledge of food security in the West end has gradually increased through our meetings with Joey and Chantille. We have a better understanding of the statistics that we researched for our project, and what they look like on the ground. Through this, we are able to gain a brief look into the lived realities of those experiencing different levels of food insecurity.

The Graceful Dismount

As the semester winds to a close, we reflect on the aspects of our project that have remained constant throughout our journey. The goal of our project from the start, as decided between our group members and our community partners at the Gordon Neighborhood House, has been to create something new and positive to complement existing GNH programs. We agreed with our community partners that this new project needed to be easy for the GNH staff to sustain so that it is able to continue having a positive impact in the future. Our decision to create a book that not only includes current recipes and stories but also has space to be added to in the future allows the book to continue to grow at the pace that it needs to. If we succeed, our project will outlive our presence at the GNH in a positive way as the community takes it and makes it entirely their own. Our role is only to do the initial work that is required to create the book. After our semester is over, we hope the community can use our book and recipe templates as a platform on which to expand food literacy through sharing between community members of recipes, stories and other information. Once our book has been created and examples of what we envision to be good entries are included, we will release our book to the community to turn it into whatever they would like it to be.

Creating the book described above will require collecting input from the community and the GNH staff to ensure that it is appropriate and relevant for the community. We hope that through conversations with GNH staff and community members alike, we will be able to learn about what is needed to increase food literacy in Vancouver’s West End and how our book can take steps in the direction of addressing this need. We will discuss what we find in these realms in our final blog post and what we think could be done to continue forward on the path of addressing issues of food literacy. We hope that as we move toward wrapping up our project, our colourful felt-tipped pens will be graphing our emotions toward the smiley face and our skills gained toward the highest level.

Up next we have a poster presentation to give and a cookbook to make! Stay tuned to see how our book turns out and how it is received by the Gordon Neighborhood House community!

References

Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003). From clients to citizens: Asset-based Community Development as a strategy for community-driven development. Development in Practice, 13(5), 474–486. Retrieved through the UBC Library Website.

Shulman, S. L. (2005). Pedagogies. Liberal Education. 18-25. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ697350.pdf