Fresh out of university I moved to Vancouver to start my career and dive into life as a ‘grown up’. Turns out the transition from school to career wasn’t as seamless as I had dreamed. Although I landed a good entry level job, I didn’t know a lot of people in the city and generally felt disconnected and unsettled. I thought volunteering might be a good way to meet new people. This simple idea led me to the Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN), a crew of awesome people, and years of rewarding participation.
Over about three years I dedicated a lot of time and energy to the VPSN as their Community Gardens Co-ordinator. We helped community groups navigate the city’s policies and requirements for starting community gardens, advocated for more garden spaces, and saw four new gardens break ground. It never really felt like I was volunteering, it just felt like I was helping my city become a better place. I enjoyed every minute of it and my efforts were rewarded with a network of fantastic people, mentorship, and experience in volunteer coordination, community consultation and engagement.
My experience with the VPSN really shaped my philosophy around volunteerism. I believe volunteering boils down to belonging; a healthy community’s citizens feel a sense of belonging, which fosters a desire to contribute and continue to make their community a better place. Volunteerism is a core piece of nearly everything we do at the Edible Garden Project (EGP), it is not random or opportunistic, but integrated by design. By bringing people together in gardens to learn new skills, we strive to create a welcoming place for people to connect, share their stories, care for their community – to belong.
Does it work? Stay tuned for my next post to hear what our volunteers think.