Access to nature isn’t always equal. In many cities across Canada, neighbourhoods with a higher proportion of Indigenous, Black or people of colour tend to have less outdoor spaces.
For example, Vancouver’s East side (home to many lower income, racialized communities) has far fewer parks and green spaces than other areas, which makes them more vulnerable to intense heat and flooding.
Although equity-deserving groups tend to be disproportionately impacted by climate change catastrophes, they’re often systemically excluded from environmental advocacy and careers.
With Vancity’s support, Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA) is working to change that.
EYA offers education and employment training programs for young people. Its programs braid together Indigenous and Western perspectives on environmental stewardship with a focus on native plant horticulture, ecological restoration, Indigenous plant medicine and community leadership.
Much of the programming takes place at Strathcona and Cottonwood Community Gardens, the only biodiverse space in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. For many participants, it’s the first time they notice the native plants around them. For others, it’s about getting back to their roots.
“This job helped me ground myself,” says Qamut’a7, about the Youth Habitat Crew paid employment program. “Living in the city, it’s hard for me to connect with nature like I would back home in Líl̓wat Territory. I find that being in this job helps me feel more at home, away from home.”
David Palmer, EYA’s Manager of Fundraising and Communications, says that funding from Vancity helps EYA offer programs in a way similar organizations can’t.
For example, trauma-informed practices are integrated into all EYA programs, and they offer honorariums to participants. It also means they can bring in guest educators, such as Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.
Throughout 2022, Vancity supported:
· 26 programs delivered, engaging 215 local youth
· 3,060 native plants gifted to 55 schools and community groups
· 100% of youth participants and educators from equity-deserving communities
With Vancity’s grant renewed for 2023, David says the team looks forward to continue helping more IBPOC youth develop the passion and skills to grow a more inclusive environmental movement.
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