Let the Sun Shine In

photo credit: Parks Foundation Calgary

After two summers of delivering horticultural therapy programs to vulnerable populations, Parks Foundation Calgary decided they wanted to expanded their services and build on their results. Accessibility and transportation were significant barriers to the populations Parks Foundation served, so an idea was hatched to bring the gardens directly to the location of an organization. 

This incited the development of Project Sunrise, which aimed to form partnerships with Calgary organizations serving vulnerable populations in order to build gardens and develop programs designed specifically for these groups. A Community Grant from The Calgary Foundation supported the project, including staff, tools and gardening supplies. 

Parks Foundation was pleasantly surprised to find broad community acceptance, and partnerships with various organizations emerged:
  • A garden in the Enviros ExCel group home for young offenders offered programming in the areas of addiction, education and mental health. “These are pretty tough kids,” explains Program Manager, Amber Hyde, “but it was amazing the relationships you could develop and the conversations you could have over a neutral activity like weeding a garden.”
  • The Enviros Respite Care garden was a spin-off of the Enviros group home, where volunteers and youth worked together to create a garden that will continue to be led by the youth. 
  • Calgary Housing Company partnered with Parks Foundation to build a garden on their Falconridge site for low-income Calgarians. The Foundation held engagement sessions early-on so residents felt they were part of the planning process. While met with initial resistance, staff was soon thrilled to welcome a large number of young people who showed commitment and regular attendance. Activities included gardening, crafting, and scavenger hunts around the garden. 
As Parks Foundation moves into the second year of Project Sunrise, the long-term sustainability plan of the project is being explored. Parks is looking in to  the possibility of adding a fourth site in the summer of 2013 and will continue to encourage a sense of ownership from their gardeners. 

For more information, visit Parks Foundation Calgary's website.