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Community Stories


Self-Care & Non-Profits


by Jean Boampong, Program Worker - Village Bloggurls

Originally appeared on on 17/02/2016.



I talk a lot about self-care, a concept that means taking time to do the things that you haven’t been able to do, often because of stressful circumstances. From many articles, tweets, and blog posts, I’ve learned about many things I can do – taking baths and walks, sleeping in, booking that much delayed doctor’s appointment, spending time with friends you haven’t seen in a while, and so forth. The goal is to learn to listen to myself when it’s time to say “NO” and/or “STOP” to my work, making the balance between work and personal life easier to manage.

But working in non-profits and doing frontline work makes this harder. Self-care can seem like a box to check off the to-do list. The culture of non-profit organizations is doing a lot with very little, and always doing more. This looks like increasing quotas, tight deadlines, unexpected larger workload/new projects, and fragile supports and systems to deal with it all. It looks like the asking of questions about new projects and opportunities without asking if there is time and mental capacity to do it; the saying “you don’t have to” while saying “you have to”. By the time we realize we’re in this culture, we’re already trained to see ourselves as secondary to our work.

There is a tremendous amount of emotional labour frontline workers do that doesn’t allow for us to press the pause button, and so self-care becomes a struggle to do and keep doing.

A long time ago, I made a promise to myself: don’t bring work home. When I do, I end up staying up into tomorrow, ignoring the things I originally planned to do, and not feeding the passions I have outside of work. So I made this promise, but I have broken it many times. It is hard with deadlines and high stress levels that cause your brain to be on all the time. On some days I’ve told my brain to shut up at 11pm, then again at 2am, then again at 4am, only to wake up in a few hours to go back to my work space and work, work, work.

It doesn’t help that some colleagues around me ignore self-care like I do; we end up enabling each other’s habits. We send emails after work, glued to the screen as if we were still at work. We check them on our off days because we’re “bored”, which is code for overly committed. We stay later than we should in order to finish tasks and projects all in one go as opposed to five. Most importantly, we feel like there is never enough time.

Of course there are many people, things, and places that can help facilitate a process of practicing self-care. I’ve put glitter jars on my desk, stress balls in my filing cabinet, and brought markers to draw on my break. I’ve created many of these things with the young girls I work with, the Village Bloggurls, in order to pass the message along that self-care matters. But my actual work space when I’m not working with them does not allow me to even use those things.

My space is super small and squished, which means constantly moving things on and off my desk. Trainings and/or meetings fall at the odd hours/lunch hour, and if they are occurring somewhere besides my office, it means eating my lunch early only to be hungry when I come back. Or I don’t really take a break and just eat at my desk while working. And anyone who plans and facilitates workshops can attest to many hours of thinking over every possible detail much longer than we are paid for, which means that thinking happens in all spaces we go into. Moving away from your desk is so much harder than it seems.

You just want to get the work done so you a) don’t have to take it home and b) don’t have to worry about it amongst the 549387 other things you already worry about. But it hardly ever works out that way. Firstly, you end up taking the work home in a bag you’ve been told many times is too heavy (with work stuff). Then, you start ignoring things and feeling low on energy. You ignore eating the food you spent much time preparing and eat junk instead; Your skin becomes paler and drier than any Winter could make it; You get sick more often; You fall asleep on every bus, while you’re driving, while you sit at your desk, etc. You forget what enjoyment looks like; And because you’re so tired, you can’t focus nor function. Your body works overtime to accommodate the brain’s command to “keep going”.

There have been seasons where I was super sick, lost my voice, had swollen feet, and running on 2 hours of sleep but still came to work. This is often seen as a mark of dedication and something to be proud of. But I can’t help but wonder if we have to be in such fragile conditions to do our best.

When we all don’t practice self-care and don’t talk to each other about it, the cycle continues. Weighing the pros and cons of taking a day off here or a vacation there is really asking whether our well-being is important enough. It’s an awful reality that doesn’t have to exist if we can change the culture in little steps.

Self-care is a work in progress. I don’t practice it all the time, and sometimes I forget that I am a person that needs it. Sometimes I don’t deal with my stress and feelings, and become very unresponsive and zoned out (this is how I respond to stressful situations; others have different responses and that’s okay!). But I make sure that I encourage myself for the steps I take toward self-care being a part of my regular routine. While I don’t have all the answers, I have “work-in-progress” tips on practicing self-care at work to share:

1. Restructure breaks: Let’s be real: I don’t actually take breaks most days because in my “work work work” brain it doesn’t make sense. Instead, I’ll add something that involves colour and creation into my to-do list, like drawing out a calendar, doodling ideas (emphasis on “doodle”), and colouring in a print-out. Activities like this keep my brain focused in a way that helps me think clearly in terms of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done (hint: not all in one day).

2. Make a list of things to do for the week, then cross out/circle the ones you won’t do today: I find this helpful in two ways: 1) I feel like I’ve done it already (momentary bliss) and b) I tend not to think about it as a “right now” thing. It’s kind of like a “not to-do list”. Doing my lists like this helps me hold myself responsible to my own boundaries. I cannot do everything at once, and that’s okay.

3. Pep talks in between tasks: It sounds very weird, but I find it helpful to talk/whisper to myself about what I’ve done, what I’m going to do next, and remind myself of what I’m not going to do. Asking “are you okay?” is also something I do to really be honest with myself. I get lost in my brain a lot and feel the pressure to do more and more and more even when the pressure isn’t there (the non-profit culture is!). Speaking with myself in encouraging ways really makes a difference in how much I strength I have to say “NO” and stick to it.

See more of Jean's work at



Caregiver Seniors Manage Stress Through Yoga

This June, the Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers project completed another yoga program at the Gord and Irene Risk Community Centre. The program was organized in partnership with Delta Family Resource Centre and delivered by a wonderful volunteer yoga instructor, Imelda Villalon.

There was a huge turnout with an average of 20 seniors every week.  The program provided an opportunity for older adults and senior caregivers to improve posture, manage stress and learn some useful tips to stay healthy. It also helped them make connections with one another and reduce social isolation.  

Participants said that they enjoyed the session and felt a difference in their well-being. They thanked Imelda for sharing her knowledge and humour with them. Some participants expressed that they found this yoga group different from others. “Although it was a big group, the yoga instructor was very flexible. She adjusted in a way that everyone could [go at] his or her own pace. It was more relaxing and suitable for seniors’ needs."

One of the senior caregivers said, “I started doing yoga at home as per suggestion from Imelda and I am very happy that I joined this group”.

We are grateful to Imelda for sharing her expertise and to the Delta Family Resource Centre for organizing the space and helping us to spread the word to senior caregivers.  

Please contact Shova Adhikari for more information on our Friendly Visiting program, educational workshops, and group activities for caregivers 55 years of age and older. or 647-208-9733.

The Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers project is part of the ENRICHES Initiative. The aim of our collaborative is to identify, engage, and support senior caregivers in northwest Toronto who are at a high risk for social isolation due to language and cultural barriers. We will connect seniors to peer mentors and youth volunteers to provide information and support in the caregivers’ own languages and provide direct services both in the community and at home. Learn more




English Conversation Circles with Senior Caregivers

NYCH’s Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers program offered an English Conversation Circle at the Jane Street Hub from May until July.  Twenty senior caregivers (older adults who are informally supporting a family member or friend) participated, and five volunteers facilitated the groups. 

NCSC’s social work student, Laxmi Gurung, thought the enthusiasm of the facilitators was very impressive. “Also, the senior caregivers who could speak English were encouraging other participants to communicate in English saying, ‘Yes, you can do it, say it in English.’  It was very inspiring to see this kind of spirit in senior caregivers.”  

One participant’s experience went beyond learning conversational English skills. “I like this English program. I learned more English. Before I was not talking, but in this English class I learned more talking and sharing.”  

This sharing aspect was felt by volunteers as well. “The caregivers could share cultural issues and cultural ideas,” said volunteer Nadereh Javadinsa. She also acknowledged that, apart from her enjoyment of the group, participants benefited by “overcoming isolation and feeling lonely at home.”

Volunteer Nadereh (right) with ECC participants

Volunteer Nadereh (right) with ECC participants

We’d like to acknowledge the time and dedication of NYCH volunteers. We are also grateful to the Tamil Seniors of Self-Reliance group leaders for introducing us to their participants and friends!

For more information on our Friendly Visiting program, educational workshops, and group activities for senior caregivers, please contact Shova Adhikari: or 647-208-9733.

The Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers project is part of the ENRICHES Initiative. The aim of our collaborative is to identify, engage, and support senior caregivers in northwest Toronto who are at a high risk for social isolation due to language and cultural barriers. We will connect seniors to peer mentors and youth volunteers to provide information and support in the caregivers’ own languages and provide direct services both in the community and at home. Learn more



Success Stories from our Culinary Employment Training

When we look at impact, we tend to focus on the immediate results. But, success hardly ever happens overnight. Achieving your goals takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

We've seen this in our own work supporting newcomers as they build new lives in Canada. We are continually learning, adapting and growing in an effort to provide the best possible means for their success.

Several years ago, we began a social enterprise with our Delightfully Yours Catering Services. Through this initiative, we provided newcomer women with training, workshops, and one-on-one coaching aimed at helping them find meaningful employment in the food industry. 

While Delightfully Yours closed a few years later, the work we did still had a positive effect. For the participants who were part of this venture, their experiences were part of a longer journey towards success - one that goes beyond the walls of NYCH.



Kinnari was in our first group of Culinary Employment Trainees. She received hands-on training through the Delightfully Yours Catering Services, obtained her Food Handler Certification, and was able to get advice on furthering her culinary education and starting a career in the food service industry.  

Today, Kinnari (together with her husband, Mitesh) is the owner and operator of barBURRITO - fresh Mexican GrillTheir restaurant is located at 50 Market Street in Brantford (just an hour drive from Toronto).





Gloria and Cecilia were also part of our Culinary Employment Training; with a similar path through our social purpose catering company. They earned their Food Handler Certifications and gained a strong understanding of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Now, both women are running their own South American food stalls at the Toronto Weston Flea MarketThe market is located at 404 Old Weston Road, and is open on Saturdays and Sundays. 

We are incredibly proud of Kinnari, Gloria and Cecilia for their passion and drive. Their achievements remind us that we too are on a journey - and through the missteps, obstacles and changes in direction, our commitment to the success of newcomers is what keeps us going. 


11 Places in Toronto to spend time with your family


11 Places in Toronto to spend time with your family

From museums to parks, and everywhere in between, Toronto is home to so many places that the whole family can enjoy. We asked our staff members where they like spend quality time with their loved ones, and this is what they had to say:

High Park

"High Park is a great place for families - you can have a picnic, play sports, see animals at the zoo, and even go fishing in Grenadier Pond. And don't miss the cherry blossoms in the spring!"
- Howard

Toronto Island

The Toronto Islands – specifically, Ward's Island. Great view of the city, and yet you feel so far from it. Lovely looking at the homes over there!” - Judy

Taric Mosque

“On Family Day, I am planning to go for brunch at Taric Mosque - there is a fundraising event for Syrian families.” - Lubna

Queen Street West

"Queen Street West and Kensington Market; for its antique & local stores, graffiti alley, art galleries, and long stretch of diverse restaurants." - Ella

Nathan Phillips Square

“Skating at Nathan Phillips Square!” - Dayanne


“Depending on the weather, I would love to spend some quality time with my family at the Harbourfront. My typical type of enjoyment will be going on a lunch cruise, enjoying scenic beauty and feeling that calm winter breeze surrounded by the people I love most." - Dilani

“Ice Skating at Harbourfront Centre! Also, they have DJ Skate Nights every Saturday at that location." - Mehrraz

The Theatre

“When the big shows come, we (my mom and I, especially) always try to get cheap tickets, and we like to see smaller shows too. Seeing Kinky Boots next Wednesday!” - Madison

The Distillery District

The Distillery District and the antique market at St. Lawrence Market on Sunday mornings. Took my mom there last time she visited.

TIFF is also a great place to go with family. The TIFF Next Wave Film Festival for young movie lovers is on at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The lineup looks awesome and it's free for youth from 14-18!”
- Annie

St. Jacobs Farmers' Market

“About an hour outside of downtown Toronto is the Mennonite Farmers' Market in St. Jacobs. It is nice to see how people survived without today's technology...the simple life.” - Lucy

The Auto Show

“With a house full of boys, they want to go to the Canadian International Auto Show.”
- Rashmi

The Art Gallery of Ontario

“Kensington Market and St. Lawrence Market; the Art Gallery of Ontario has interactive kids stuff; the Royal Ontario Museum; Riverdale Farm is lovely; The Inuit Art Gallery if you're at Harbourfront; and Gooderham & Worts in the Distillery District.”
- Stephanie

Looking for some places to go this Family Day Weekend? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Family Sunday in the Beach | February 14 | 12pm - 4pm
  • Great Canadian Chill | February 15 | Yonge-Dundas Square 
  • Zion Schoolhouse | 1091 Finch Ave.E | February 15 | 1pm - 4pm
  • Purina Paws Way | 245 Queens Quay W. | February 15 | 11am - 5pm 
  • HarbourKIDS Snowglobe - Natrel Rink | 235 Queens Quay W. | February 15 | 11am - 5pm
  • Family Fun Fest | Downsview Park | February 13-15 | Child - $25, Adult - $8$
  • Hockey Hall of Frame | February 15 | 10am - 5pm - Up to a maximum of 4 youth (13 yrs & under) will be admitted FREE* with the purchase of one regular price adult admission

See a list of indoor and outdoor activities organized by the City of Toronto


5 Ways to Give Back on Giving Tuesday


5 Ways to Give Back on Giving Tuesday

On December 1, people all over the world will be taking part in Giving Tuesday to celebrate the idea of giving back. It's a day that encourages people to come together around the charities and causes they believe in, and reminds us that we can all play a part in making our communities better places to live, work, and play. 

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, "how can I get involved?" Well, we've listed 5 ways people can give back and make an impact this Tuesday:

Simple enough, right? You probably say "Thank You" all the time - to the friend that has just lent you a book; to the person who serves you your morning coffee; to the bus driver on your commute home - and while they are just two small words, saying them still makes a big difference. So say it in person or write it in a note - either way, it's a great way to give something back. But be warned, saying Thank You to a NYCH staff member is sure to cause uncontrollable gratitude.

The great soul singer Sam Cooke once sang, "You can show emotion in the little things you do," and that definitely rings true when it comes to showing that you care about your community. Every day, across our various locations, we see the impact of all those small actions - like holding the door open for a mother with a stroller at Lawrence Square Mall or stopping to give directions to someone who is lost near the Bathurst-Finch Hub - and when you put all the little things you do together, we can't help but think of another Sam Cooke lyric: "what a wonderful world."

Last year, NYCH had close to 400 volunteers generously share their time and expertise with our organization; from providing one-on-one mentorship through our Stepping Stones to Leadership program to leading discussions with newcomers at our English Conversation Circles. We could go on and on about how grateful we are for the contribution of our volunteers, but we'll leave it to one of our program participants to keep it short and sweet: "...the best way to give back to volunteers is to become a volunteer too." You can fill out a Volunteer Application here.


Even though NYCH serves nearly 25,000 individuals a year, there are still people out there who haven't heard of us. So whether it's a Like, a Retweet or a Follow, helping to spread the word about the work we do and why we do it is a great way to give back.

Now, this might seem like the obvious one on a day about giving, but we couldn't talk about Giving Tuesday without mentioning the impact your generous donations have on our organization. In donating to NYCH, 90% of your gift goes directly to the programs and services we offer, making it an integral contribution towards building strong, vibrant communities.

For 25 years, North York Community House has been working with new immigrants and residents in northwest Toronto, providing the resources and opportunities they need to achieve their goals. By contributing to our organization on Giving Tuesday, you are helping us to continue making our communities stronger and more welcoming for everyone. 

Share your Giving Tuesday efforts with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!



Meet a Member of Our Board: Nina Chandarana

Nina Chandarana joined the NYCH Board of Directors in 2013. As a resident of North York, along with her husband and two young children, Nina is extremely passionate about building North York into an inclusive, thriving community. She brings a diverse skill set, with an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business and experience in the private and public sectors in management consulting, teaching accounting and finance, and managing multi-million dollar businesses. In the last 2 years, she has been involved with the Strategy and Board Development committees, developing NYCH's 3-year strategic plan and putting in place a new board evaluation process.

Nina spoke with NYCH’s Human Resources Director, Bonnie Hunter, about what it’s like to be on a board, and some of the things she sees for the year ahead:

BH: Hi Nina, thanks for doing this! It would be great to share a bit about who you are, your experiences on the NYCH board so far, favourite flavour of ice cream…whatever you want to tell us.

NC: Hey Bonnie!  Thanks for asking.

BH: So what made you decide you to join a board of directors, instead of doing some other kind of volunteer work?

NC: A professor once told me that my education is a gift, and the best way to show my gratitude would be to volunteer on a non-profit board of directors. At the time, I had NO idea what she was talking about (in my young, naive days!). But about 10 years later, I remembered that conversation as I was feeling very lucky to have had the schooling I did. I really wanted to utilize my education in the most effective and contribution-oriented way possible. So, I took her advice, looked into organizations whose cause I wanted to support and applied! 

BH: There are so many organizations out there –  how did you get connected to NYCH?

NC: A friend from school was on the NYCH Board and she posted all kinds of interesting things on Facebook about the organization. I live in North York, and was looking for an organization in my community doing work that helped empower people to live fulfilling lives. After seeing my friend's Facebook posts, I reached out to find out how I could get involved, and lucky for me, NYCH was looking for new Board members. Gotta love social media!

BH:  What has been the biggest surprise, or ‘aha’ moment since you joined the board?

NC:  How unbelievably challenging running a non-profit can be. I always knew that non-profits worked in a unique environment, but I had no idea to what extent the challenges are at every level. At the Board level, we have the opportunity to see all aspects of the organization and the question of "how do we deliver the highest impact within the restraints that we have" always makes for a complex discussion. It has been a real eye opener for me to witness NYCH's ability to work with minimal funding, to constantly be looking for more efficient ways to operate, to train, mentor and retain staff, to fight to maintain current funding levels, all while staying focused on delivering world-class programming.

BH:  I’m not sure if everyone knows how much work is involved in being on a board. What’s one thing you wish people knew about non-profit boards?

NC: Great question!  Before I became a board member, there was always this mysterious veil over an organization's "Board of Directors", almost like a Big Brother type feeling. Thankfully, my view has changed and the board is actually not as mystical as I was led to believe! It is actually just a group of people genuinely wanting to help the agency move forward to build stronger communities.
In my experience, there seem to be three aspects of board involvement: First, attending monthly board meetings which is primarily used for the ED to get feedback on major initiatives and finalize big organizational decisions. These meetings also provide background, context and insights into the organization which allows for deeper and richer board discussions (~ 3 hours/month).  Second, getting involved with committees (e.g. finance, communications, strategy, policy, recruitment/development, fundraising). This is where projects are taken on and board members roll up their sleeves to help the organization accomplish its goals (anywhere from 3-20 hours/month depending on the committee and the project at the time). Thirdly, board members act as ambassadors and help to raise the organization’s profile in the community.

BH: From your perspective, what do you see for the year ahead for the board/for NYCH? Can you give us a horoscope? I believe the organization is an Aquarius.

NC: Well, if I were to look into my crystal ball, I see a winding road with some roadblocks for NYCH, with an all-terrain vehicle pushing through the barriers and a beautiful garden at the end of the journey. (Do I need to brush up on my fortune teller analogies?!?) This is actually an extremely exciting year for NYCH because the organization is very clear about the impact it wants to make (which really lines up with its key strengths), and is gathering the tools and developing the structure to deliver on that impact. There are a lot of changes in the funding environment that we will need to keep our eye on (and develop some diversification strategies in response), but the ‘garden at the end of the journey’ is seeing many of our clients move into leadership roles in their communities and therefore inspiring others in their neighborhoods to push through barriers and live more confident and full lives. A pretty amazing vision for us to focus our energies on!  

BH: Finally, what IS your favourite flavour of ice cream?

NC:  I'm a mint chocolate chip kinda gal!


A Letter from our Russian Seniors Group


A Letter from our Russian Seniors Group

"Our Seniors of Self-Reliance Russian-speaking group led by volunteer, Marina Konkin, has been operated since April this year. We appreciate the high level of preparation put into conducting the classes, considering the needs of all participants.

We received a lot of helpful information and did many interesting things.

For example, we learned about Aboriginal peoples' way of life and culture, Canada's political system and holidays. We also read interesting and entertaining stories, played memory and word games and went to the ROM and Centre Island. We always had the opportunity to express our points of view, share our experiences and tell stories.

We thank our leader, Marina, for her care, attention, compassion and understanding towards the older generation, for her creative and organized lessons. Our group thanks NYCH for providing us with such a wonderful professional.

Deepest regards,
S.O.S Russian-speaking group members"

Photos of our Seniors of Self-Reliance Russian-speaking group.

Read more Community Stories here.


Shaobin: Thank you, Volunteers!


Shaobin: Thank you, Volunteers!


by Shaobin, NYCH participant

After I finished my LINC class (Language Instruction for Newcomers), I still felt barely confident in English, even though I received a CLB 8 certificate. I knew I needed more training to improve my English, especially in verbal communication. So, English Conversation Circles (ECCs) really attracted my interest. I started to join various ECCs run by different organizations. Most of these ECCs are run by one or two instructors who lead a big group of more than 10 or even 20 participants. In this situation, participants do not have many chances to speak. 

I also attended a conversation group that was conducted like a formal classroom, with a teacher in front and students sitting at desks. Even with a good instructor who tries to look after all participants and encourages everyone to speak, it still seems more like a question/answer model than a conversation. Participants listen to the instructor more than they speak amongst themselves in these groups. 

Then, around two and half years ago, I participated in an ECC at NYCH. 

From the first day I joined the ECC, I found it was very different from the others. Along with a Program Coordinator, there are many volunteers involved. All participants are separated into smaller groups of 3-5 that are led by a volunteer. In these small groups, all participants get more chances to speak and real conversations happen. It is really a great method for newcomers to improve their English. I continued to join various ECCs at NYCH, and in those programs, I met a lot of wonderful volunteers. 

Volunteers at the ECCs come from various professional backgrounds. Hardly any of them have teaching experience, however, we learn a lot of English from them; more than if we studied English with a teacher :). In the small groups, they never teach. They converse as equals. They only give opinions and never give a correct answer. They are more like friends. Participants in these groups feel more relaxed and it is easier to become confident and comfortable. Most of the time, the participants speak much more than the volunteers leading the group. Newcomers do get a lot practice in conversation! 

English Conversation Circles at NYCH

But, volunteers help us not just in English. In addition to English, all newcomers have to face the challenges of a culture gap, living and working in Canada. Volunteers are real individuals that live in Canada, and being close to them is like being close to the life of Canada. All the experiences they share come from their lives. All the answers they give are not from any standard answers in text books; they come from their own opinions. Many of them were immigrants themselves. Their experiences of overcoming obstacles when they first arrived in Canada are so precious for us. 

Through our discussions, we often find that we actually share many opinions or ideas, even though we come from different backgrounds. We talk about the differences among various cultures, helping us to understand each other better.  They share their experiences of how they changed their view to adapt to their new life in Canada, and that gives us a great example to build our confidence. They help us to realize that the gap between cultures is not that big, and their success really encourages us to embrace our settlement.

All volunteers are ordinary people - they might work at a bank or be a hilarious IT guy. They are kind to everyone - from a retired couple to a breezy college student. All of them make me understand deeply what they mean by, “Canadians are so nice.” No matter day or night, in cozy or harsh weather, they travel through the city to stay with us, suffer our lousy broken English, answer our strange questions. They keep coming and dedicate their time. They help us to make a better life and become better Canadians. They help Canada to be a better place.

I would like to express my great appreciation to all volunteers - thanks so much for your great contribution. Your voluntary spirit also encourages many newcomers to start volunteering in the community themselves – as we believe the best way to give back to volunteers is to become a volunteer too.

A group of NYCH volunteers.

Read more Community Stories here.


Market Days Build Bonds at Lotherton Pathway


Market Days Build Bonds at Lotherton Pathway

Originally posted on

by Camille Bettonville

On Thursdays, from 4-8pm, residents of the Lotherton Pathway community gather their grocery bags and head to the Lotherton Good Food Market.

As their kids have fun in the common playground, community members purchase fresh vegetables and fruits from the Good Food Market. This has become the routine for Lotherton Pathway since the first week of June, when the Good Food Market opened.

Before the new Good Food Market opened, FoodShare’s Mobile Good Food Market made weekly stops in the Lotherton Community to bring affordable, fresh, culturally diverse vegetables and fruits to residents. The community is considered a food desert, as the members of the community have to face a 45-minute walk or a $6-round-trip fare and a walk to access the first affordable grocery store. The only short cut, which saved 30 minutes of walking, was dangerous and required crossing train tracks.

The Mobile Good Food Market had such a big success that FoodShare, in collaboration with Syme Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre and NYCH’s ANC (Action for Neighbourhood Change), decided to convert the Mobile Good Food Market stop into a weekly Good Food Market. The staff that runs the market is from the community and FoodShare takes care of the delivery and supply of vegetables and fruits. Syme-Woolner NFC supports the market by being responsible for supervising, staffing, funding and finding food waste solutions, such as using leftovers in the community kitchen or other food programs.

FoodShare makes sure the staples delivered are culturally appropriate. In Lotherton, the bestsellers are okra, Caribbean sweet potatoes and mangoes. Nadine, a market volunteer, sees how important the market is for the community. She keeps the market vibrant with her smile, sense of humour and good spirit.

“Thanks to the market the community is more unified, now I talk and get to know the people I would just see in the hallway. The market has brought everybody together. I love my community and I love my market!” said Nadine.

FoodShare’s Mobile Good Food Market has stopped in six new locations this spring while eight new Good Food Markets were opened. Today, FoodShare Toronto supports three times as many markets as it did three summers ago, with 29 Mobile and Good Food Market locations increasing access to affordable fresh vegetables and fruits.

Read more Community Stories here.



Samara's Vote Pop Up – Field Tested and Ready To Roll

Originally posted on

If we built it, would they vote?

This was the question that inspired our newest initiative in our federal election activities. In order to help community organizations and civic leaders encourage voting in their communities, we have created new “Vote PopUp” kits. Designed to be DIY and easily-accessible, the kits are available now for ordering by anyone interested in promoting voting in their community. The kits are designed to simulate —and demystify —the voting experience by recreating polling places in familiar locations. In the process, the activity encourages participants to reflect on why voting is important, and what really matters to them. 

In the past several weeks we at Samara have field tested the kits at two locations that are not usually considered hot beds for voter engagement: a quiet mall in northern Toronto and a community food centre that provides affordable quality produce and a free lunch. 

Our ballot box and voting screens were set up next to the food court at the mall and alongside the dining room at the food centre.  There we asked people to stop for a moment to vote on what mattered most to them from a list of five issues. We quickly learned two things: people have strong opinions, and they want to have their voices heard.

Vote PopUp gave participants a chance to see if they are registered to vote on Election Canada’s website and an opportunity to learn the new ID requirements for the upcoming federal election.  Happily, most voters found that they were registered even if they had never previously voted in a federal election.  One woman, who had just become a citizen a few weeks earlier, discovered that she was already on the voter list. This information alone made her feel more confident about looking ahead to voting this fall.

After participants cast their ballot, we asked them to write why voting is important on a poster. The answers we received were inspiring and sometimes surprising, including:

“Because I live in a country that allows me as a woman to vote!”

“If you don’t use it, we will lose it.” 

“I think it will make a difference”

Once presented with the opportunity, we never had to tell participants why voting is important.  They were always quick to tell us.

For the Samara staff members that ran the field tests, and are normally surrounded by stark data about lack of political engagement, it was refreshing to hear the passion and concerns of community members—some of whom were regular voters but many others who had never voted before.

As Samara volunteer Marce said, “It was fun being part of a ‘field test,’ and it was really interesting hearing from the community about why they vote as well as their challenges in voting.”

Many community partners and outstanding volunteers have contributed to the creation of the Vote PopUp kits, and we can’t wait to see how they are used to promote voting in communities across the country. A special thank you goes to Elections Canada and the Laidlaw Foundation for their financial support for this project.

If you or your organization would like to run your own Vote PopUp, all the materials are now live here on our website. If you’d like to get more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Read more Community Stories here.