Summertime in Winnipeg’s non-profit world is typically a filled with excitement and increased community engagement. We come out of our hibernation to enjoy the sun’s warmth we longed for during the winter months. School is finished for the year and families are eager to participate in summer programming. This year, COVID-19 disrupted our well-practiced routine and we wondered how we would be able to uphold our standard of practice and accessibility. However, what we feared would be a grim and sparse summer of programming turned out to be a meaningful and fun-filled summer that highlighted our community’s strength, resiliency, and adaptability.
In July, we engaged our community’s artistry. In partnership with Art City Inc., we hosted two art workshops at the Agnes Street Green Space with the aim of beautifying the outdoor space. We had participants paint their own images on square wood planks that were then fastened to our community garden boxes to create a larger mural. This art project brightened the outdoor space and made it a more welcoming place for our community to enjoy.
Throughout the summer, we used the outdoor green space as the gathering place for our community BBQs. Every second Friday we hosted a BBQ where we shared a meal alongside (socially distanced of course!) various community members. With each BBQ we engaged with new people and enjoyed conversations with our regulars. We were all grateful for being able to share a meal together. In this time of social distancing, we have witnessed the effects social isolation and distancing have had on our community. Many of the members who access our services have little social interaction outside of our organization. We have seen the benefits of being able to take the time to sit and listen and share a common space as a community, and are thankful to have been able to provide some social opportunities within safe social distancing parameters.
Our summer programming also included a few field trips and many picnics in the neighborhood. We visited the Assiniboine Zoo, took boat tour the Forks, and swam at Birds Hill Park Beach.
As a summer program coordinator, I enjoyed getting to know the people who access programs at 1 Just City – St. Matthew’s Maryland. Having primarily worked with children and youth in the past, I was nervous about coordinating programs that were to engage people of all ages, in particular, adults. As I got to know the community, I learned that participants were less concerned about the programming, though they always showed so much excitement for each day of program no matter what it was, and were more focused on the opportunity to spend time with one another. If I could summarize what this summer taught me, it would be the meaning of patience and compassion. Taking the time to listen to someone’s story even though I was busy trying to organize an upcoming event went a long way to building a meaningful relationship with that person. Building relationships with people and creating an environment where they feel heard and a sense of belonging is at the heart of what we do at 1 Just City. It is ultimately how we show our love to the under loved.
Written by Angeline Rivard - Summer Student at St.Matthews Maryland Community Ministry