Written by Jenna Otto-Wray
Jenna Otto-Wray has served as the Community Coordinator for Central Vancouver since 2010.
I’ve been involved with Neighbourhood Small Grants (NSG) in Central Vancouver for over eight years now, and as some of you know, I made the very hard decision to take a break from the project next year.
I’ve spent the last week reflecting on those eight granting cycles, all the amazing people I’ve worked with, the projects we’ve seen develop, grow and blossom, and the connections cemented in our neighbourhood.
I’ve been thinking about Tamara Litke and her sunflower garden. The tiny bit of seed money Tamara received eight years ago to grow a small garden with her daughter’s kindergarten class. Tamara joined me on the Neighbourhood Grants Committee the next year, becoming a leader in the NSG family, continuing to help gardens grow in our neighbourhood. Tamara made deep connections through the project and got a job at the UBC Farm.
I ran into Tamara last week, she told me she just finished her Master’s degree. With a little bit of seed money from the NSG eight years ago, Tamara’s life developed, changed and grew in ways she couldn’t imagine.
I’ve also been thinking about my Neighbourhood Grants Committee. A group of people I consider friends now. Volunteers who have stuck with me, and all the changes the NSG has seen over the years. Their projects and commitment to this neighbourhood continue to grow and inspire their important work.
I’ve been thinking about the projects that came out of nothing and made a lasting impact in our neighbourhood. Huge street murals, little libraries, traffic circle meeting places. Projects that changed the way the City of Vancouver views community building in our neighbourhood and beyond. This work has truly made a lasting impact on projects and leaders of the future.
I’ve been thinking about projects where I’ve seen a full life cycle! A giant chessboard gave life and loved so much it needed to be refurbished last year. We happily contributed again.
The community of Creekside was disjointed and disconnected in 2010. As people slowly began to fill the towers newly built for the Olympics, a small group of community-minded folks decided to take it upon themselves to build connections within their building.
Over harvest long table meals, movie nights, ping pong competitions, weekly composting parties and in rooftop soil, a community was build in the neighbourhood Creekside, partially because of the NSG and a group of dedicated folks.
I’ve been thinking about all the meetings I’ve had the honour of being a part of. Here at Mount Pleasant and Little Mountain Neighbourhood Houses. With other NSG Coordinators and Vancouver Foundation. And at the annual NSG Summit, a day-long learning experience I look forward to every year! I’ve grown so much through this project and I couldn’t feel more honoured to have had the opportunity to work with Jocelyne Hamel, Joel Bronstein and Messert Taye.
I’ll leave you with a quote I heard at the NSG Summit this year that really resonated with me:
A place where open doors,
Open arms, and open hearts,
Always warmly welcome you.
And where you can breath
And laugh and
Love and be loved.
Because you’re you
And you’re one of us.